Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS) continues to monitor and assess the situation regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19). GLBBS’ first and foremost concern revolves around student and staff health. Effective March 16, 2020, in an effort to reduce human interactions and potential spread of the virus, GLBBS will remain closed to the general public until further notice.

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Scholarships Help Launch Careers

Tom Ruddy, Comprehensive Boat Building Program student.

As a student at GLBBS, Tom Ruddy is known for his dry sense of humor and his exacting craftsmanship. He tells Stem2Stern that he enjoys working with and interacting with his classmates, as well as “learning new skills and different approaches to woodworking and boat building each and every day.”

Tom’s Mother, Elaine, recently wrote in to tell us about the progress she has seen in Tom. Below is an excerpt from the letter which has been edited and printed with her permission:

Tom graduates this year. As sad as I am to know that his graduation means he’ll probably move far from us. I am very excited he will be working in a trade he is passionate about and skilled at. How many people can say they get paid for doing what they love! I know he will be able to support himself because he has already proved he can, living away from us for over 9 months. 

Great Lakes Boat Building School has been one of the most influential experiences in Tom’s life. We are so grateful for the skills, professional and personal, Tom has learned and continues to learn going to school there.

Tom was a semester from getting his associate degree in Fire Science. His original career goal was to become a fireman. However, after taking his EMT course he realized this was not the path for him. He was lost for a couple of years, but worked hard at Target. Then his dad, Kevin, found the Great Lakes Boat Building School when looking for workshops where he could get assistance in building a wooden kayak. He showed the professional program to Tom, and then they went to a GLBBS open house.

Tom became excited and decided he wanted to learn this trade. So he applied and thankfully was accepted into the GLBBS program. Tom is a very shy and socially awkward person. We would usually find him, after work, in his room playing video games online with his friends. Occasionally, he would come out and visit with his sisters. He hardly ever went out with his friends. After Tom came home from his first year at GLBBS, we noticed some big changes in him.

Tom was more confident, mores social. He spoke his mind more and enjoyed making his sisters laugh. He went out with friends. In short, he became more engaging. Tom always loved woodworking; that’s one of the reasons Kevin told him about GLBBS. We saw that love become a passion. He loved to talk about what he was learning and what he worked on at GLBBS to anyone who would listen to him.

Over the year living in Cedarville, Tom had to become independent and proved he could live on his own. He did not have a lot of money with which to go to school. But, he showed how well he could budget what he had. The scholarship GLBBS gave him was an enormous help since I was out of work for almost a year, and we were also supporting his two sisters through their schooling. That scholarship helped us pay for his tuition and gave Tom some peace of mind. He was always worrying about how we would be able to pay for his schooling.

Being able to afford the education you seek is often the biggest hurdle for students (and their families) to surpass in making the decision to attend GLBBS. In fact 83 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a post-secondary education.

Tom is thriving at Great Lakes Boat Building School, not only academically, but personally. And Tom’s story is not a singular one – over the last four years GLBBS has awarded over $180,000 in scholarships to 47 aspiring boat builders. These students were here for a singular goal – a career in the boat building and maritime trades – and over that same four-year period, 100% of our Comprehensive Boat Building students have achieved that goal.

Please consider a making a gift to Great Lakes Boat Building School’s Scholarship Fund in 2019.  Click here to learn about how you can make a difference at GLBBS!