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Vermont Instructor Teaches Inmates to Build, Build, Build a Boat.

When students from the woodworking class at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans, Vt., wanted to build something more challenging than jewelry boxes and CD holders, vocational instructor Adam Vincelette gave it to them -- a 32-foot rowboat.

The white cedar and white oak boat -- called a pilot gig -- is rowed by six people using 12- to 14-foot oars. Docked at Lake Champlain, the vessel is available to state agencies and youth groups for teambuilding exercises. In addition, students from the Burlington Community Correctional Service Center will form a seven-member crew team that will compete in Vermont and Massachusetts.

The project literally began from scratch in the fall of 1999. Vincelette had been searching for a new and exciting project for his Community High School of Vermont students, many of whom had been with him for years, when his supervisor suggested the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's boat-building program. After a visit to the museum, Vincelette decided it was a worthwhile project, however, he had never built a boat before and would have to teach himself before he could teach his students. "I'm used to working with right angles," he says. "It has definitely been a learning challenge for everyone."

Also, Vincelette developed a curriculum, which included classroom time, for the boat project so his students could earn credit toward their high school diplomas. During class, Vincelette taught his students the math that was necessary to build the boat, as well as the history of the boat.

The wood for the boat was milled by inmates at the Windsor Prison Farm and its design was developed by inmates at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport. "We were trying to get as many students involved in the program as possible," Vincelette says, adding that his group included 20 males, who range in age from 18 to the late 50s -- most of whom were 18 to 20. Half the group participated to earn credit and the other half did it simply because they were interested in constructing the boat. Once Vincelette's students received the materials, they began to build -- first the platform on which to build the boat, and then the boat itself.

"The boat looks awesome," Vincelette says. "A lot of the students said this is the best thing they have ever done. Overall, they are very proud of it and all the positive attention they have received from different media outlets for their efforts."

Many of the students called their parents, eager to tell them that they would be featured in a local newspaper story. Vincelette notes that some of the students said, "Instead of seeing me this week in court, they are seeing me on the front page of the paper." Vincelette adds that the project is important because it not only teaches his students a new skill, but it also shows them how to work as a team to achieve a specific goal.

In addition to woodworking, Vincelette, who has been a vocational instructor at the Northwest State Correctional Facility for seven years, teaches automotive repair and is in the process of building two 25-by-50-foot greenhouses so he can teach the students horticulture, and creating a graphic arts program. Also, with the boat completed, Vincelette eventually will receive training to become a rowing coach so he can teach it to the youth groups.

Vincelette hopes to expand the vocational offerings to include something of interest for each student. "Since I started as a vocational instructor," he says, "my goal has been to provide as many trades as possible to the students so they will be able to find employment and be successful once they get out."

Michele D. Buisch is senior editor of Corrections Today.
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Title Annotation:Adam Vincelette, Northwest State Correctional Facility, St. Albans, Vermont
Author:Buisch, Michele D.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Previous Article:U.S. Violent Crime Rate Drops.
Next Article:ACCA: Enhancing Inmates' Spiritual Lives.

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