Maritime Academy Open Doors to Maritime Careers

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ADMIRAL LINDA FAGIN of the US Coast Guard addressed the crowd of emotional graduates on what comes next in life – and how they can make it easier on themselves – during their graduation ceremony held at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19. Photos by Eldon Graham

BY ELDON GRAHAM
Some people are called to the sea. When that happens at a young age, education comes into play and there is no better place to learn sea life than the Maritime Academy Charter School.

Two campuses comprise the MACHS. One, at 2275 Bridge Street, is considered the middle school; it instructs kindergartners through 8th-graders. The high school, at 2700 E. Huntingdon Street, instructs 9th through 12th graders. Although they are a maritime school, they provide a well-rounded, quality education, and tech them about the best materials use in boats, view the link to find out more information.

CEO Edward J. Poznek, a former naval officer, keeps it all going. Poznek describes the ins and outs of the school: “It’s a standard Pennsylvania curriculum. We teach algebra, history and English, but we marinate the curriculum with maritime themes. For example, the 2nd-grade class, instead of reading Jack and the Beanstalk, will be assigned something with ships.”

The maritime industry is a significant part of the Delaware River and Bay. It ferries many products to and from the United States: cocoa beans, paper products, and cars from South Korea.

MACHS, a public school, is the largest maritime school in the country with 820 students. Every student goes through the same course: Introduction to Maritime Studies.

The school encourage students to become involved in nautical pursuits at their leisure as they see fit. Sailing, transportation and international knowledge are all part of the maritime industry; they can lead to a successful career. Once they graduate they can choose to work at MacDonald Turkey Point Marina.

“Our goal is to introduce all of these opportunities, these employee posts and secondary employment opportunities, to our students,” said Poznek

The Maritime school’s board chairman, Eugene Mattioni, has set up a monthly speaker series. Speakers talk about their specialties to give an in-depth idea of what a maritime career can look like. Homeland Security agents, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration employees, experts on petroleum, powder coating and metal coating, and Philly Shipyard representatives are among the speakers.

The academy gives an overview of the entire industry, which includes shipside and shoreside career positions. On board, there are two career paths: “deck” and “engineering.” A deck job can lead to becoming the captain of a ship; the alternative tracks one to becoming a ship’s engineer.

The middle-school campus, which is located at the Frankford Arsenal, is a former army ammunition plant on the National Register of Historic Places.

At a visit to the middle school, Poznek introduced teacher Keith Herman, whom Poznek proclaims as the maritime expert. Herman went to a four-year maritime school and immediately took to sea. “I first started as a cadet,” Herman said. “I was on one tanker that carried molten sulfur, so imagine what that smelled like.”

Herman houses a massive amount of knowledge of the maritime industry, from history, time zones and navigation to the precise charting of longitude and latitude. In one course, “everyone that was studying speed, time and distance had a 50-foot walked line outside and we timed them, had them count their paces. We had the course outside, they were given directions and distances.” Herman saw it as a great way to put the students to the test of what they had learned in a real-world context. “We taught them north, south, east and west; now let’s actually use it,” he said.

Herman takes pride in teaching maritime studies to his students, being in the industry for over 20 years.

Both the middle school and the high school components of the Maritime Academy School feature aggressive learning and passionate teaching.

Discipline is intrinsic to maritime life and it begins in the classroom. Upon entering a 3rd-grade classroom, taught by Ms. Sylvia Wassel, the students were alerted to Poznek’s presence in the room, thanks to an “Attention, cadets” from Ms. Wassel – at which point, all of the students stood up with firm salutes and said, in unison, “Hello, Mr. Poznek.”

ANCHORED in their positions at the Maritime Academy High School are, L-R, Eugene Mattioni, chairman of the board; and CEO Edward J. Poznek.

The academy participates in athletics such as volleyball, softball, baseball and basketball. It has a nationally ranked underwater robotics program known as Sea Perch. The high school participated in the regional championships for robotics, which was held at Temple University. The team took home second prize regionally in the competition. The national competition took place in Atlanta. The Maritime Academy placed 27th out of 97 contestants.

Students participate in boatbuilding and a sailing program at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tinicum Township. There, they take a “sea shanty” course, where they learn traditional sailors’ songs.

This past school year, 59 students graduated from the Maritime Academy High School. Some of the students will attend four-year colleges, while others will attend a four-year maritime college. Two students, Jayson Bradfield and Zaire Caraway, will enter the armed services.

The speaker for the graduation was none other than Adm. Linda Fagin of the US Coast Guard. Adm. Fagin serves as deputy commandant for operations, policy & capabilities. Her responsibilities involve establishing and providing operational strategy, policy, capability and resources to meet national priorities for Coast Guard missions.

Adm. Fagin’s message to the graduates cited nine principles, all of which can be used in everyday life but hold special meaning for a person pursuing a maritime career. The short version: work hard; never quit; find yourself; get out of your comfort zone; be polite; write thank-you notes; manage yourself; be humble; and call home at least once a week.

One school of choice for future mariners is the United States Merchant Marine Academy located on in Kings Point, N.Y., from which Mattioni, the chairman of the board of the Maritime Academy Charter School, is an alumnus. There are seven maritime colleges within the United States, one federal academy and six state schools. “Our graduates have the opportunity to go to any one of them provided they meet the curriculum and standard requirements,” Mattioni said.

The level of dedication that arises not only from the students but from the teachers and instructors can’t be matched. “We walk into that 3rd-grade class and you can see how happy they are to be here, to get an education that we are providing,” said Poznek. “When you are inspired by the type of teachers that we have and type of students we have, there’s nothing better.”

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