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Inner City Youth Discover One of the World’s Biggest Playgrounds

Elizabeth, New Jersey – December 5, 2006 – Shawn McClain, CEO and founder of the Millennium Mentorship Program immediately saw the connection between rowing and the young men growing up in the Elizabethport section of Elizabeth. Standing on the pier overlooking the Arthur Kill River, Shawn is excited as Robert Calandra, president of United Marine Contracting, Inc. and founder of Before the Mast, assists five young men as they lower their boat into the Arthur Kill. “This is amazing. These kids are learning so much about themselves and each other. Rowing is teaching them about accountability, dedication, self discipline, and focus while exercising the body. If one person doesn’t show up for practice, the boat can’t go out,” he says. “These kids are learning a lot more than how to row a boat. They’re learning about how to work together. And, together they are gaining an appreciation for some of the world’s biggest playgrounds. This is such a productive use of the river. You can’t ask for a better way to use the river than to have a bunch of kids learning how well they can push their limits and where they can push their limits.”

Robert and Shawn recently joined forces to select and train a crew of young men from Elizabethport in the age old sport of rowing. Robert Calandra, a Navy veteran of the destroyer service and a blue water yachtsman founded Before The Mast to bring youngsters together through teamwork to experience rowing, sailing, and boatbuilding on urban waters. “This is an uncommon experience for these kids. The Arthur Kill is one of the biggest playgrounds and it’s right in their backyard. It would be a shame for them not to learn about it and learn from it.”

Eric King of the Nereid Boat Club of East Rutherford and Bill Dougherty of the Elizabeth based non-profit Before The Mast have served as the crew’s official coaches and trainers. Their boat, a sleek Whitehall powered by four long sweep oars and steered by a fifth person called the coxswain, is often referred to as a gig.

"The Sea Builds Integrity"

On Saturday, December 9th, the crew will participate in the 12th annual American Star Invitational team rowing event in the New York harbor. The crew of five has been learning and training for weeks and on Saturday they will join crews from New York, New Jersey, and New England as they compete in the American Star Invitational. The Invitational is an historic race that dates back to 1824 and was revived by Floating The Apple twelve years ago.

Before The Mast was founded in 1995 and the Millennium Mentorship Program was founded in 1998. Both programs are dedicated to the healthy development of young men and women.

For more information, please contact Robert Calandra at 908-482-5240.