Urban Boatbuilders began in 1995, when a group of community leaders realized young people were losing opportunities to develop hands-on skills and spend time outdoors. This lack of experiential learning only serves to widen gaps between privileged and at-risk youth. Through wooden boatbuilding, we help bridge those gaps, allowing youth to develop problem-solving and social-emotional skills as they work toward brighter futures.

Since our founding, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds. We now employ six full-time staff and hold a permanent workshop space in the University-Raymond District. We’ve built hundreds of high-quality skin-on-frame canoes, many of which we’ve sold to members of the community to help support our mission. In 2019, our most successful year yet, our youth helped build 27 boats, 123 paddles, and 61 longboards.

But we don’t just build boats, we help to build lives. Our two signature programs—paid youth apprenticeships and school partnerships—have allowed us to reach over 8,000 young people in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region. We’ve since seen them flourish in myriad ways: as college students, as skilled workers in various trades, even as returning employees with our organization. Young people emerge from our programs boasting new confidence and capability, which they take back to their communities.

“Three years ago… I just couldn’t help but get into trouble. It was non-stop. I just couldn’t face up to the things I did wrong and I didn’t take responsibility for myself.”

“This hands-on learning allows my students to feel successful. They are successful, but they don’t necessarily understand that just by looking at the results of a math quiz. They have to feel it, and when they put their hands on the work, that allows them to interact with understanding their own growth.”

Let’s Connect

Interested in our programs, boats, volunteering, or supporting youth in other creative ways?