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Clinton Rotary Club President Andrew Marzano shares his love of water with his students in the Navigator Program at Hamden Middle School. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Andrew Marzano is quite fond of the water, and he’s sharing that appreciation with a new audience each year. Andrew is a teacher in Hamden Middle School, where he teaches science in the Navigator Program, which is geared at Hamden Middle School students who are struggling academically, socially, or with attendance issues. The program offers the students a chance to learn the same skills as they would in a classroom, but in a way that is more engaging to them: by building their own 12-foot skiffs.
“We get them re-engaged and give them experiences to draw on,” says Andrew.
Over the course of the year, the kids build their own wooden boats, and then cap off the semester with a trip to Clinton’s waters where they actually get in and sail their boats, with an assist from the Clinton Sailing Club. Andrew says this year, the fourth year of hosting the program, there were 30 kids involved.
The idea for the program came about when Andrew and other teachers were working to find ways to help students that struggle in a traditional classroom setting.
“I was tired of seeing the same few kids in the beginning of the year being on the bottom of the list to start the year, and then leaving still at the bottom of the list at the end of the year,” says Andrew.
By getting the kids out of the classroom setting, Andrew says he can see the change in attitude that happens.
“When you take these young kids to the water, they get inspired, they start asking questions. They can find something of interest and who knows what direction that will them in,” he says.
For Andrew, the most inspiring part of the program is seeing the confidence and excitement the students express when they finally climb aboard the vessel that they made.
“When you’re working with the kids during the year, they are driving you nuts, but when they come back and tell you it made a difference and it helped them, that’s when you feel like you’re having success and making a difference,” says Andrew.
The Navigator Program also receives assistance from the Clinton Rotary Club, where Andrew currently serves as president.
“I actually approached them when I was starting the program and they were supportive. Once they saw what it was about, they asked me to be a member,” Andrew explains.
As president, Andrew is responsible for helping to oversee the and help the club find ways to give back to the community. The Rotary Club is an international organization that strives to help those in need around the world.
Andrew calls the club “the best kept secret” because the club prefers to operate behind the scenes and not make a big splash.
Some of the things the club supports are the Cancer Relief Fund, clinics in countries with poor access to medical care, and food drives. Locally, Rotary gives out an annual $3,000 to graduating Morgan students and sponsors a club at Morgan called Interact.
“The Cancer Relief Fund is the big one,” Andrew says of the fund, which provides assistance to families in which a breadwinner is dealing with cancer. “It’s so that they can at least keep the house running while they fight cancer. It’s our staple.”
One upcoming Rotary event on which Andrew is working on is the James Beardsley Memorial Cornhole Tournament on Sunday, Sept. 29 at the Westbrook Elk’s Club. The tournament will be used to fund several Rotary projects. The tournament will run from noon to 3 p.m. and costs $100 per two-person team. For more information, contact Cornhole Event Coordinator Richard Mason at 724-554-9439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew originally grew up in North Branford, and moved to Clinton in 1997 because he saw a town that fit him perfectly.
“It was a shoreline community that just felt good. It felt like my kind of people,” says Andrew.
In particular, Andrew liked the honest, blue-collar, hard-working, friendly people in town.
In his spare time, you can find Andrew by the water near Cedar Island Marina in Clinton.
“My spare time is in the summer and I’m either in the marina or out on the water,” says Andrew.
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