The Living Classrooms began in 1985 as just one boat. In the past 28 years, it has become a virtual flotilla.
Foundation President James Piper Bond runs an organization with a $15 million budget and offices in Baltimore and Washington that employs 300 people. In addition to the nine historic ships that the organization maintains, a variety of programs serve 40,000 kids and young adults each year.
• The Foundation's two elementary schools. The Crossroads School, which was founded in 2002, was one of Baltimore's first charter schools. In 2010, the Foundation also took over the Commodore John Rodgers Elementary and Middle School, which previously was the second-worst performing school in the state. In just three years, there has been dramatic improvement in students' reading and math scores. Commodore Rodgers now outperforms the average for city schools in these areas.
• Job-training programs for troubled teens who have had brushes with the law, and formerly incarcerated young adults. The teens in the Fresh Start program sell furniture they make themselves in the on-site woodworking shop. The adults in Project Serve learn how to operate heavy commercial equipment while renovating vacant homes and community centers. In the past three years, the recidivism rate for Project Serve participants has been just 4 percent, according to Living Classrooms' annual report.
• After-school and environmental programs. These range from shipboard education to a Baltimore urban garden that provides produce for the Waterfront Kitchen, an on-site restaurant with which the Foundation has partnered. There's also a summer camp in which kids help clean up the Inner Harbor, replenish the depleted shad population, test water quality and tend the floating wetlands.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun