Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s government office announced yesterday that Prologue, Inc., which operates four schools for at-risk youth in the Chicago area, was awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to launch a new maritime program that will train and certify at-risk youth in water transportation occupations, including building, maintaining and repairing commercial and private boats, ships and docks. The school is Illinois’ first maritime academy and the location of the “maritime school” is at 13421 S. Vernon Ave, in Riverdale, Illinois, a previously abandoned marina along the Little Calumet River. The three-year grant will enable Prologue to operate its maritime job skills program.
“Prologue has a proven record in alternative education for more than 40 years, and its four Chicago area schools have helped thousands of at-risk youth obtain a high school diploma, learn in-demand job skills and turn their lives around,” Congresswoman Kelly said. “The maritime program is an especially inventive development, since Chicago is one of the largest inland general cargo ports, and there is a strong demand for skilled maritime workers in the area.”
According to DNAInfo.com, Prologue’s proposed school will be named William Tillman Maritime Academy, named after a free black man who rescued a merchant ship that was declared property of the Confederacy during the Civil War, The school will serve teens and young adults ages 17-21. The students enrolled in the program will receive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) focused skill and career development through integrated and experiential maritime learning.
According to the school, The William Tillman Maritime Academy will be one of the only twenty-one (21) maritime high schools across the country. It will also be the first of its kind in the country spearheaded by an African-American led human services non-profit organization serving predominantly low-income African-American and Latino youth. The Tillman Academy would leverage traditional education programming and also integrate training in the maritime, environmental and ecological areas.
“We’re thrilled to have received the grant,” said Nancy Jackson, CEO of Prologue. “It’s significant that it’s being awarded for our new maritime program. This is an outstanding opportunity for our agency and our partners, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago International Shipmasters Association—Chicago Lodge #3. We’re taking former drop-outs and teaching workforce skills and placing them in jobs in the maritime industry as ship mates, boat builders, FCC radio operators, engine repairers, and much more.”
This is one of 72 federal YouthBuild grants awarded nationwide under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. YouthBuild is a community-based alternative education program that provides classroom instruction and occupational skills training in construction and other in-demand occupation for at-risk youth between 16 and 24.
YouthBuild’s mission aligns with the goals of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to close the opportunity gap for young men of color.