The Tacoma Youth Marine Center provides on-the-water skills training for local youth and helps cultivate the workforce of the future. Founded in 1924, the Tacoma Sea Scout program now has three ships, the Curtis (a 78-foot retired Coast Guard cutter), the Odyssey (a 90-foot sailboat originally built for the Vanderbilt family), and the Verite (a 38-foot rowing gig built by the program in 1998). These ships serve as the platform for a wide array of programs for youth and young adults to learn real-world skills and be on the water. Between the Sea Scout program, science and technology partnerships with local schools and universities, and charters, thousands of young people touch the Puget Sound each year. 

The Tacoma Youth Marine Center is located on the Foss Waterway and is regarded as the area’s premier waterfront youth-focused facility. With a strong focus on leadership training, youth do everything from handling lines and steering the boat to maintenance and engine room mechanical operations, building confidence in a wide variety of skills, and exposing them to many career pathways. Many participants get jobs in maritime, manufacturing, construction, warehouse, mechanical, and engineering fields, and many South Sound business owners and manufacturing industry leaders are alumni of the center’s maritime programs. They recall how the hands-on maritime programs provided life-changing opportunities that most young people don’t experience. 

Said Monique Valenzuela, executive director of the Tacoma Youth Marine Center: “Quite a few of the youth we see down here at the Tacoma Youth Marine Center live so close to Puget Sound but have never had an opportunity to experience it. We get kids off their electronics and show them how to be leaders; how to fix things and solve problems; and, most importantly, help them build confidence. They learn valuable core skills that they can apply to a good-paying job right out of high school or use in higher-education options.”

Photos by David Putnam