Founded in 1996, Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory provides hands-on maritime-based educational programs for pre-teens and teenagers from Philadelphia. Using a profoundly experiential learning approach grounded in Frankford’s historic connection to the river, PWBF’s programs are engaging youth to learn about themselves and prepare for the future. The organization’s boatbuilding and on-water programs blend physical strength and endurance with problem solving and academic enrichment, and help students develop the resiliency and tenacity to succeed in the transition to adulthood.
Geoffrey McKonly founded the organiztion in 1996 because so few developmental opportunities existed for underperforming and econimcally disadvantaged youth. He saw a need for an appealing program that could provide youth with meaningful activities that would be central to academic achievement, and also address the needs of students that are often not met at home or in school. When students are working with their hands and learning woodworking and a variety of maritime skills, they are engaged in dynamic activities that blend physical strength and endurance with problem solving and academic enrichment that leads to success and personal growth.
PWBF's staff is a blend of social service, youth development, and maritime arts experienced employees.
Zeelyna is a long- time advocate of youth empowerment. She brings extensive experience advocating for the needs of underserved youth. She has been intimately involved in the development of several after-school programs focusing on healing trauma, building resilience and developing life skills. Zeelyna has provided vision, leadership and supervision for a team Master Social Workers at Big Picture Schools, serving sensitive youth’s needs such as domestic violence, LGBT identity and acceptance, bullying/harassment, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental health, and substance abuse. Zeelyna has brought her mindfulness approach to youth development to Latin America, Caribbean and Canada where she completed a sabbatical focused on serving children with deep trauma. Zeelyna completed a six-month woodworking apprenticeship with Raymond Carr in the Smokey Mountains. In her spare time she enjoys being in nature, yoga and traditional Indian dance.
Jesus, who holds a B.A. in Psychology began building wooden boats with the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum in 2009 after completing the WoodenBoat School’s fundamentals of Boatbuilding program. His interest in connecting Camden’s disenfranchised youth to their vibrant and historically crucial waterways led him to spend the subsequent three years directing the Urban BoatWorks initiative, where he led 6-12th grade students in a variety of wood/composite small boat builds. He is passionate about wooden boatbuilding not only for the hard-skills developed through the craft but also for the peaceful inspiration that comes with constantly considering the vessel’s interaction with the vastness of the sea.
Patrick grew up in Northeast Philadelphia before moving across the Delaware to Camden County. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Marine Sciences. While getting his degree, Patrick studied abroad in rural Mexico working within the community to develop a fishery management plan. He also worked as a deckhand and completed research in the Caribbean onboard the SSV Corwith Cramer with the School for Field Studies. After teaching biology for a year in California, Patrick served for 27 months with the Peace Corps in Mozambique where he taught in a secondary school and worked with the community on education development programs and environmental conservation projects. He is a member of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication and is excited about expanding the Riverguides program throughout the Philadelphia area.
Andrew joined PWBF as a student while attending El Centro De Estudiantes. Motivated to finish his high school degree, Andrew apprenticed two days a week with PWBF as a part of the school’s Learning Through Internship program. Andrew quickly attached to the work at the shop, showing great promise with his carpentry, math and leadership skills. After graduating high school, Andrew was offered the position of Program Assistant. The summer of 2013 will be Andrew’s first time out on the water in a boat, something we are all looking forward to!
Victoria graduated from Mercy College with a Masters in Special Education, and brings to PWBF valuable classroom experience including curriculum development for students with special needs. After spending two years teaching upper elementary special education in the South Bronx, Victoria moved to El Salvador, where she was the Head Coach for the Salvadoran Sailing Federation. As part of her responsibilities for the Federation, Victoria ran the youth sailing program for the local fishing communities. While abroad Victoria also taught high school literature at the American School in El Salvador.
Brett Hart, the organization’s Executive Director was born and raised in Frankford Philadelphia, four blocks from Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory. Brett is a graduate of the Landing School of Boat and Design in Kennebunkport, Maine, and has worked as a tall ship captain and wooden boat builder. He began with PWBF as a youth program instructor from 2000 - 2004 and taught adult classes for the organization in celestial and offshore navigation and marlinspike seamanship. Brett served as the Captain and Director of Maritime Education for Philadelphia City Sail on board their 75′ Schooner North Wind, traveling for extended periods with Philadelphia teenagers. He returned to PWBF as Director in 2009. His expertise in the field of positive youth development coupled with a lifelong love of the sea has helped to bring Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory national recognition as a high quality out-of-school time organization. Brett is currently building his own 2,500 pound displacement Paul Gartside designed cutter just outside the shop.
Chris was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, spending his summers aboard multiple fishing boats on Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. For the past 14 years, Chris has been working for the Boy Scouts of America here in Philadelphia and New York, leading their fundraising teams and development campaigns. Chris created a local high adventure sailing program that provided Scouts with a week-long adventure aboard a schooner from Philadelphia to Annapolis and back. When he is not networking throughout the city, Chris enjoys wreck diving, wakeboarding and fishing off the shores of New Jersey.
CEO, Grovara LLC. Graduating from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s in Marketing, Peter Groverman spent several years in the technology field focusing on building teams and websites to assist the traditional advertising-world in making the jump from print to electronic media. Peter attended the Villanova University School of Law – where he completed his J.D. degree and now is recognized as a member of the Pennsylvania State Bar. Peter began focusing his interests on the International level – this focus eventually led to the creation of Grovara LlC – an international distribution group. When he isn’t traveling the world selling US Manufactured products, he dedicates his time as Founder of an international disaster response non-profit called The R.E.L.I.E.F. Foundation. For fun Peter is an outdoorsman – Skiing, Fishing, Surfing, Speaking Spanish, and Wake-boarding – are just a few of his favorite past times.
Fiscal Supervisor, Public Health Management Corporation. Rachel Viddy has over 15 years of experience in the Out-of-School Time (OST)/youth development field. As a Fiscal Supervisor for Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) Ms. Viddy is responsible for managing a team of Fiscal Monitors and Program Specialists which provides fiscal compliance and programmatic oversight to the City of Philadelphia’s funded OST initiative. Prior to PHMC, Rachel served as a Program Officer with Philadelphia Safe and Sound and ran middle school-focused OST programs for a small non-profit agency. In addition to her experience in youth development, Rachel has also worked on international development projects in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa and in consumer products brand management for a private sector company. She holds a MBA and a MA in International Affairs from Columbia University and a BA in Political Science and Development Economics from Georgetown University.
Executive Director, Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia. Maari works for Mayor Michael A Nutter as his Chief Grants Officer and as the Executive Director for the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia. Maari has lived in Philadelphia for just over three years, having lived in London for 12 years and before that, New Zealand. Maari came to Philadelphia to work as the City of Philadelphia’s Recovery Officer responsible for oversight of the City’s $350 million Stimulus program during the Great Recession.
Prior to working for the City, Maari spent eight years working for the British Government, primarily in the Cabinet Office (which includes work for No.10 Downing Street) and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit focused on helping government agencies deliver the public service priorities and targets established by the Prime Minister. Prior to that Maari worked for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister focused on local government policy reform and change, including successfully turning around some of the poorest performing municipalities in England.
Standards Associate, B LAB. Since graduating from Swarthmore College in 2009, Elizabeth has spent time aboard ships that seek to educate people on the importance of sailing and environmental stewardship on both coasts. Most recently, she sailed abroad the Adventuress, a historic schooner in Washington State as an educator/deckhand. She is delighted to share in her lifelong passion for the water, ships, and youth engagement with the Wooden Boat Factory community.
Managing Director, Philadelphia Development Group Limited. Chris Myers is a passionate entrepreneur and founder of seven start-ups who has been visible in the commercial Internet space since 1997 as an Internet-search and Internet-TV pioneer with the well-known search-optimization company searchbuilder.com and the Internet-TV startup Sivoo. Mr. Myers has been active in venture capital since 2002 and is now the Managing Director of the Philadelphia Development Group Limited, where he directs the firm’s venture capital investment and fund advisory businesses. Mr. Myers also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship with the LeBow College of Business, and is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship in Technology. He is an MSc candidate from the Centre for Financial & Management Studies at the University of London, and holds a BA from the New School for Social Research in New York. He is also a sailing enthusiast.