"Craftsmanship is an attitude," says Joe Youcha from the floor of his floating boatbuilding shop on the shore of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Va. "It has a certain amount to do with your hands, but most of it comes from your head and your heart." You could say the same about Youcha's life's work - especially the part about the heart.
Although boats were already part of his life, Youcha started in the trades working in a cabinet shop where he encountered what he calls "toll snobs."
"If it didn't come from Garrett Wade or cost a week's pay, some guys looked down their noses at your tools," he recalls. Later, working as an architectural restoration carpenter in New York City renovating storied places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (they installed "period rooms) and the Dakota (John Lennon lived there) he learned a simple lesson from a demanding teacher: "It doesn't matter how a tool looks or where you got it. It only matters if it works."
Today, as executive director of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, Youcha applies the lessons and experiences he gained as a young woodworker to help at-risk youths find healthy ways into the workplace, using wooden boatbuilding as the basis. His apprenticeship program at the Alexandria Seaport Center has gained national recognition and served as the model for programs in other cities. The kids not only learn how to work as a team to plan and execute their projects, they learn what it feels like to take pride in themselves. And that's a tool for life.