JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students in Saturday morning merchant seaman class in Jacksonville weren’t taking notes on typical classroom topics: They were learning how to abandon ship -- and live to tell the tale.
The anti-crime group MAD DADS is teaming up with Florida Youth Maritime Training to help students train for a career as a merchant seaman.
Donald Foy with MAD DADS said building steady, solid careers like this helps prevent crime.
“Individuals resort to whatever they have to do to take care of their families,” Foy said. “We’re trying to offer them a career, so they won’t have to resort to selling drugs. They won’t have to resort to breaking into cars.”
The first class Saturday involved learning to navigate a gumby suit.
“If I’m going to live, I want to know everything! I’m going to figure it out; I’m going to make sure I listen to him,” student Destiny Johnson said. “Because he does know a lot about this industry.”
Douglas Thompson went through the training in 2017.
“Coming to this class every day, five days a week. It’s worth it, you know what I mean. To make a life change,” Thompson said.
Since then, he’s built a fulfilling career as a deckhand.
“The ship maintenance, I also drive the ship. Pull it into port. I love going to different countries,” Thompson said. “Oh man, I see the world for free. I get to explore different countries and still make good money.”
Johnson said her long-term goal is to become a business owner. She said this is a great first step.
“I want to do a lot of things! I want my name to be out there. I want to have a legacy,” she said. “So, me doing this right now is building my funds up and saving. It’s going to be good for me.”
The program lasts for four months. And once the students complete it, they’ll be certified as entry-level Marine Service Technicians.