High school freshman Paul Cox III is planning to join the Marines after high school. Afterwards, he wants to work
Under supervision from Boat Building Class
instructor, Rick Brown, students Imalai Estrada,
Paul Cox, Brittany Carr and Aylinda Estrada
apply principles in naval architecture and
mathematics to construct a boat. (Press photo
by Ken Grosjean)
in the maritime industry.
“I would love nothing more than to just be out on the water for weeks at a time and just be out on a boat. It’s just calming for me to be out on the water,” said Paul.
Paul lives in Oregon with his parents Paul II and Julie Cox. Like his older brother and younger sister, Paul III was home-schooled — until last year.
After looking into parochial and public schools, Paul and his family began researching charter high schools. Paul decided he wanted to attend The Maritime Academy of Toledo, a grade 5-12 nautical themed public school located on Water Street adjacent to the Maumee River near downtown.
Paul enrolled into the academy’s eighth grade class one year ago, and like other students there, he is referred to as a “cadet.”
Students can graduate with a high school diploma and earn a two-year college degree at the same time. Now that he is a freshman at TMAT, Paul is also taking post-secondary classes at Lourdes College.
“I really think that this is one of the best choices that I have ever made,” Paul said.
The Toledo academy is one of only 18 maritime-themed K-12 schools across the U.S. and includes the first state-approved Maritime Career Tech Education Program in the nation, which is available on site for graduates.
“That is the first program that actually trains students from high school to a freighter, a tug boat, a cruise ship, and they are obviously are going to be more favorable in the eyes of the merchant marine academies, naval academy, and the coast guard academies,” MAT Superintendent Renee Marazon said.
Paul’s favorite subject at the Toledo high school is the Maritime Skills class.
“I love learning about the different careers that you can do on the water,” Paul said. “I really enjoy the way our teacher teaches that class (Maritime Skills). He gives really interesting lectures. Basically, the academics, in my opinion, are pretty advanced for the age group that I am in. We actually have our own boat and we go out on that quite a bit.”
Joining Paul from this side of town is seventh grader Brittany Carr, whose family lives in East Toledo. Carr enjoys the maritime classes, but her mother, Thelma Sue Smith, has another reason for sending Brittany to the academy.
“It’s a really good school. There is a lot of discipline,” Smith said. “If you need structure like that in your kid’s life, then it’s a really good place to send them because it does teach them discipline and following rules and everything that you have to do to maintain a job.
“I just put my daughter in last year and she really seemed to like it a lot. They’ve got swimming there, and she loves to swim,” Smith continued.
Boats and robotics
Not only does the school have a pool, last May the academy purchased a boat to enhance the school’s marine science curriculum.
Marazon said the school purchased a 1946, 41-foot Erie American Boiler Works vessel for $25,000. The boat had been sitting unused at Anchor Point Marina.
“The boat has a steel hull and is in very good condition, despite its age,” Marazon said. “The goal is to have the students refurbish the vessel and utilize it for marine science education and research on the Maumee River and Maumee Bay.”
To further aid in the curriculum development, Maritime Academy secured $1,500 to build underwater robotic vehicles. Money for both purchases was obtained through education grants and private donations.
“The grant allows us to purchase three construction kits so the students can actually build the underwater robotic vehicles,” said the academy’s marine career tech program director, Rick Brown. “We will take two of the kits, put them together and then dissemble them so other classes can again construct them. The third will be used with our new education and research vessel — Mariner I.”
Brown said students will use Mariner I and the remote operated robots to research soil erosion, invasive species, water quality, aquatic capture, and other related marine and maritime studies. The underwater robotic vehicle can also be utilized for ice flow studies.
Marazon said, “First our students will be building them this year, and then they will be practicing and manipulating them with joy sticks under water, and then they will be taking them out on our vessel, Mariner I, and then they will be doing underwater research in the Maumee River and some of the Maumee Bay waterways.
“The end result is a unique opportunity for our students to learn more about the marine sciences happening in their own backyard. It allows for some highly educational field trips to enlighten students to the maritime and marine sciences.”
At TMAT, it is not only students who get an education. Sometimes, it is the teachers.
Marazon said experts from a Michigan university arrived over the summer to train instructors on how to build and use the remotely-operated underwater robots for underwater research.
“It’s basically using plumbing materials — it’s amazing, elbows and things and little fans and motors on them and cameras and lights, and then they can go underwater. They actually have arms that can pick things up, like soil samples, and bring them to the surface,” Marazon said.
In another project last June, students launched a 12-foot wooden pram row boat constructed as part of the Spring semester curriculum. Boat Building I and II are part of the curriculum.
Naming it Mariner II, the rowboat’s construction followed the Great Cardboard Boat Race that the academy hosted in February. Students were putting on finishing touches, including sanding and painting the bottom of the rowboat before testing it in the school’s swimming pool.
“When students did the Great Cardboard Boat Race, there was an ‘A-ha moment’ when the boats actually floated, did not take on any water, and supported the weight of a person. I expected that same kind of reaction when we launched Mariner II,” Marazon said.
TMAT, in its fifth year, currently has 233 students, and even competes in sports (including cross country and basketball) with five other Toledo-area high schools (Winterfield Venture, Horizon Science, Bennett Venture, and New Bedford academies) and 15 middle schools in the Community School Athletic Conference.
Last year, TMAT’s enrollment jumped from 129 to 188 students and received a “continuous improvement” in the annual report card issued by the state’s Department of Education. The overall test score improved to 82.4 — the highest number for the school over the past three years. It was an improvement from 66.9 percent two years ago and 74.8 percent in 2007-08. The school attendance rate is 95.3 percent, which also meets the state indicator.