About Us

Who We Serve

Our direct services target youth ages 14-21 from the Kensington, Port Richmond and Frankford sections of north Philadelphia – all areas that face significant unemployment, high incidence of crime as well as substantial poverty.


Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory was founded in 1996 by Geoffrey McKonly, who believed disengaged youth needed a hands-on activity in a constructive environment to help them develop and apply academic skills. PWBF transitioned in 2010 from its initial school-based, vocational-technology approach to an out-of-school-time model, expanding both the numbers it serves annually as well as the range and duration of its programming.

Our Approach

Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory uses a longitudinal, resiliency-based approach that is grounded in the Reaching Teens curriculum developed by University of Pennsylvania’s adolescent medicine physician, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg. The longitudinal approach allows participants to develop trusting connections with staff over time, enabling them to explore, take risks and learn from failure. Read more…

Our Objectives

One of our explicit objectives is to support positive change with respect to early warning indicators adopted by the School District of Philadelphia. PWBF also works to encourage positive self-images among youth, knowing that how young people think about themselves has an impact on how they act as well as on their potential for success. Ultimately, we look to graduate youth from our program with the skills and resources to make constructive life decisions and to enter and succeed in employment or post-secondary education.

Key Staff Members

Emma Bergman

Social and Emotional Learning Specialist
Emma holds a Masters in Social Work and contributes her passion for positive youth development, creative group empowerment, and community engagement to the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory. From experience exploring her native Long Island Sound to fishing and boating excursions with her father, Emma has maintained and fed her love of aquatic adventure.

Jesus Castro

Program Director
Jesus holds a B.A. in psychology and began building boats with the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum in 2009, after completing the WoodenBoat School’s fundamentals of boatbuilding program.

Andrew Cintron

Program Assistant
Andrew joined PWBF as a student. He apprenticed two days a week with PWBF as a part of the school’s internship program. Andrew quickly connected to the program, demonstrating great carpentry, math and leadership skills. After graduating high school, Andrew was offered the position of Program Assistant.

Theophilos Collins

Science Education Director
Theophilos has a Masters in Environmental Management and he has taught nautical and marine science to students all across the U.S. His passion for communicating environmental concerns, especially with regard to coastal and marine issues, to the general public has brought renewed energy to the RiverGuides program.

Brett Hart

Executive Director
Brett is a graduate of the Landing School of Boat and Design and has worked as a tall-ship captain and wooden-boat builder. 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.

Siddig Johnson

Program Intern
Siddig is a graduate of El Centro De Estudiantes and Wooden Boat Factory's apprenticeship program. He became a father this year to a son, Rasheed, who lives next door to our shop. Siddig is excited to continue building his skills as a mentor and watershed steward through his work with the Riverguides.

Nicole Lam

Program Administrator
Nicole holds a BS in Public Health with a passion for youth and community development; as well as intertwining health and environmental issues through the utilization of open spaces.

Emma Van Zandt

Riverguides Program Assistant
Emma is a recent graduate of Eckerd College with a BA in Environmental Studies. She is a champion of alternative forms of education, and believes that nature is the best classroom.

Board Members

Peter Groverman, Esq

Chief Counsel and Company Officer
Grovara LLC

Christopher B. Myers

Managing Director
Philadelphia Development Group Limited

Maari Porter

Executive Director
Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia

Patricia L. Red Hawk, MD.

Biotech and Healthcare Services

Christopher H. Tomlin

Assistant Scout Executive & Chief Development Officer
Boy Scouts of America - Cradle of Liberty Council

Rachel Viddy

Fiscal Monitor Supervisor
Public Health Management Corporation