All aboard! How Cleveland students can take advantage of maritime career based opportunities

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 11:40 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - What is the clear career path for students in the Cleveland Municipal School District?

That has become a very difficult question, in some respects, to answer.

Many, of course, will go on to colleges and universities, graduate and start a professional career as their is no shortage of accomplished students in the district.

But in Cleveland, like many large urban districts, many high school students are fighting to find opportunity as they grow up in economically disadvantaged households, and that poverty is sometimes is difficult road block to overcome.

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Maybe, that opportunity is located north of the city, on Lake Erie, where some see the economic engine of the future.

“At 11 or 12 years old, I had never been on the water at all, I never imagined driving boats or doing anything of this sort,” Quinton Oliver said as he captained a vessel on North Cost Harbor as a recent graduate of Cleveland’s Davis Aerospace and Maritime High School.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District partnered their high school with Argonaut, and the result has been transformative for many of the high school students who are looking for an opportunity to excel in high school and then possibly set up a post high school career.

Argonaut, a Cleveland based company, works, they say, to build adventurers through immersive learning experiences, the end result they hope is to grow talent for the aerospace and maritime fields.

“Not only are we preparing for futures but were really handing over the responsibility of maintaining this fantastic resource,” said Captain Drew Ferguson, the CEO of Argonaut.

It is a program that seems to be providing solutions to a couple of problems.

First, it provides that opportunity and a path to a career, but as the students go through the program they also provide a number of services.

They learn and work on vessel’s provided by the Port Authority, that are equipped to clean debris from the lake.

They also monitor Cleveland Water Alliance buoys, taking readings for water temperature, levels and pollution.

And making sure we stay on the path we are on now to a cleaner lake and river is imperative.

According to the Laker Erie Foundation, Erie, the 2nd smallest of the Great Lakes has the 2nd highest concentration of plastic particles of the 5 Great Lakes.

And, plastics are now considered a significant hazard to our health and the economies of the boating and fishing industries, and that is why having young people involved in the future of the water is critical.

“So our students are out there gaining skills but they’re also gaining exposure and they’re gaining a sense of responsibility and obligation to the water in Cleveland,” Captain Ferguson said.

Aiden Hall is Argonaut’s lead captain and oversees the the high school crews on the Port Authority vessel’s. It takes time and patience to teach these young people how to navigate a ship but he finds it rewarding work.

“I can only think of maybe 1 or 2 other high schools in the country that do something like this and it is a massively unique, awesome experience for a lot of these high school kids,” Hall said.

It is hard work for the students who are required to meet the state of Ohio’s core curriculum requirements as well as their responsibilities on the water as they move through the program.

For Quinton Oliver, he took perhaps the most difficult path, managing to get his captain’s license, while enrolled in the program.

That took 360 days on the water, five hours minimum per day to get that license and then had to pass the required tests.

“I never knew these careers even existed growing up when I went to Davis they provided opportunities for us to go on the water and I kind of explored it, dipped my toe in it and kind of fell in love with it,” Oliver said.

The future of the city remains tied to the lake and the river, and its hoped the good work that is being done here, will grow and with it help to continue to improve the health of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga.