Summer break time for 900 students of SUNY Maritime College meant time on the open waters of the Atlantic, studying and getting firsthand training to become ship captains.
Two separate groups of 450 students each spent 45 days in their floating classroom—the Empire State VI, a 17,160-ton, 565-foot ship. On Monday, the second group made a port of call near home, at the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx.
“It’s a combination of Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and your birthday,” said Walter Nadolny, vice chairman of the Marine Transportation Department of SUNY Maritime College, by phone Monday.
Excitement emanated from Elizabeth “Books” Berilla, the ship’s librarian, who kept family, faculty, and friends informed of their journey with daily blog posts. “In just about 10 hours we’ll be pulling up to Maritime College once more with a full crew ready for the best welcome home Throgs Neck has ever seen!” Berilla wrote early Monday morning.
Nadolny said the summer sea term is great for firsthand training, and a way to bond with classmates, who could be called on, years down the line, as members of the tight-knit maritime industry. Traveling to ports on Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, the Azores off the coast of Portugal, Liverpool in England, and Reykjavík in Iceland are added bonuses.
SUNY Maritime is the oldest of six maritime colleges in the United States, offering training for licensed deck and engineer officers, and one of the few schools to offer a degree in naval architecture.
“They are coming out not only with federal licenses, in many cases, but also an extremely rigorous undergrad education that will prepare them for their industry,” Nadolny said.
SUNY Maritime has been working with New York Harbor School, a maritime-focused high school on Governors Island and unofficial feeder school, as Harbor School continues to develop its program. This year, eight Harbor School students applied to Maritime College. Three students were accepted and will attend in the fall.
“We absolutely consider SUNY Maritime to be one of our biggest target colleges for sure and we have a lot of programs we run with them,” Murray Fisher, New York Harbor School founder said by phone Monday.
Last week, SUNY Maritime hosted 10 students from Harbor School and 10 students from Baltimore Maritime Industry Academy for a one-week S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program.
“That is the kind of program that can add scale and really introduce a lot of our students to SUNY Maritime and the opportunities offered,” said Fisher.
No matter which high school the students come from, all who came to port Monday were smiling and happy to be back.
Nadolny said, “[They are] walking a little bit taller than when they got on because they have taken responsibility and earned the respect of their peers. They come back after their first cruise very much changed, in a very positive way.”
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