HARRIS' HEROES

Alexandria Seaport Foundation helps youths build boats, self esteem

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The Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Old Town asks teenagers to step way outside of their comfort zone. The teens enter an apprentice program and work long hours, developing carpentry skills while building old-fashioned fishing boats.

Derrick Walton, an apprentice, says it's hard work, but it's worth it.

“It's just showing me what it takes to succeed in the real world, about how to be on time, how to act in the shop, how to be respectful to the volunteers,” he said.

Steve Hernandez, a veteran of the Marines, is an instructor now, but he started at the foundation as a lost teenager himself. He says the youths see that they’re accomplishing something and are part of a bigger picture.

“The program helped me by building my confidence, building my self-esteem, showing that I could do stuff,” he says. “We built a 30-foot catamaran when I was here.”

Participants say it's an amazing feeling for these apprentices to feel proud of something they helped create - and proud to be creating better lives for themselves with endless possibilities on the horizon.

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