Bristol student charts her own course (Bristol Phoenix)

By Christy Nadalin

It’s been said that if you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.

It’s a lesson that one Mt. Hope High School student has learned early, thanks to an enrichment class and a statewide initiative to introduce Rhode Island students to the skills they need for well-paying jobs.

PrepareRI is an ambitious plan to improve youth career readiness. It is a partnership between the state government, private industry leaders, the public education system, universities, and non-profits across the state.

Madison Rodriques, a junior at Mt. Hope High School who is taking part in a PrepareRI initiative, first became interested in boat building while taking an after-school class at the Herreshoff Marine Museum her freshman year.

“It was a little male-dominated,” she admits. “But I thought, let’s just do it, I’ll try it out.”

She learned how to read plans, and she learned “lofting,” a drafting technique particularly useful in boat building, that allows you to effectively scale plans for objects with curved lines, like boats. She and her classmates also repaired the historic boats used in Herreshoff’s education programs, and made “pond yachts,” scaled down models of Columbia, the America’s Cup Yacht built by Herreshoff in 1899.

Madison enjoyed the program so much, she returned as a sophomore.

Having never thought much about the marine trades — despite growing up near the water — she had discovered a new passion. This past summer she volunteered at Herreshoff as a junior sailing instructor. She was initially spending half her time in the museum, where she came to appreciate the storied boatbuilding company’s history, but she really wanted to spend her days on the water.

From building to sailing

“The water just called me,” she said. The last day, she was officially hired as a sailing instructor. “This fall, starting next week, I’ll be here every day after school, teaching sailing.”

Madison’s other interest is in marketing, and especially the DECA club at Mt. Hope High School. DECA is a 70-year-old club, with affiliates in schools around the world, that, according to their mission, “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.”

This past year, Madison’s DECA project was a Miss Charity pageant that she and a friend organized to benefit Hasbro Children’s Hospital. With less than three weeks to organize the event, they pulled it off, had fun, and raised about $2,000.

“Marketing and the marine trade don’t necessarily appear to go hand in hand,” said Madison. “But when we visited the Volvo Ocean Race (Village) this past year and saw the innovation of making boats faster, it intrigued me how people can engineer these boats to sail faster, and safer. And they also marketed themselves, like the Turn the Tide on Plastic team. They marketed the mindset of the people who built the boat, and were sailing it. I really saw the opportunity to bring it all together.”

“Before I started in the marine trades I wanted to go into medicine. But this is what I love. I don’t know much about medicine, but I do like working with people and being social.

“I love sailing. I love being on the water,” Madison said. “I want to use the marketing skills I have, to work in the marine trades. Because everyone wants to do something they love.”