High school students will get free access to the powerboat races in Key West. FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/Contributed
The Key West World Championship Powerboat races aren’t just for adults to “ooh” and “aah” over some racing machines, but for kids, too. But some local kids may not have the opportunity to see the boats or races at all. Senior Vice President of First State Bank Kurt Lewin, Super Boat International President Jim Carbonell, and attorney Robert Spottswood saw the opportunity to create sponsorship for high school kids in Marine Studies programs to get up close to action. Interest in the marine industry is natural for Keys kids having grown up with the ocean as their backyard. Many of them drive boats before cars.
“Last year we sponsored 100 kids from Coral Shores to come down to Key West for the day,” said Lewin. “They get to go in the VIP tent, meet the drivers and mechanics. It’s nice to see the kids interact with people from around the world and show them there are jobs in this industry.”
For 12 years, Chris Catlett, who runs the marine studies program at the Coral Shores High School has organized and brought his students to the races thanks to Lewin, Carbonell and Spottswood. His successful four-year marine program has created industry-leading boat captains and engineers, all stemming from their love of marine technology.
“It’s a chance for the kids to actually see what they are learning up close and personal,” said Catlett. “Where else can they see the latest technology like a surface drive or a bravo drive? They are the next generation of mechanics and engineers for the marine world.” He credits the powerboat racers and mechanics for generating enthusiasm for marine field with the kids. “This year many kids will be able to be shadow mechanics and work with the teams. There’s no where else to get this kind of experience,” he said.
Coral Shores is now one of five high schools in the country partnering with Yamaha to help kids get marine industry certification and a step up for their future.
“I’m bringing 100 kids this year,” said Catlett, “I tell them all to talk and ask questions, make the most of it.”
“The races give them something to be interested in for their future; it’s a win-win for us and the kids.” — Kurt Lewin, senior vice president of First State Bank.
The 36th annual Key West World Championships run from Sunday, Nov. 6 to Sunday, Nov. 13. The dry pits are at the Truman Waterfront and the races happen in Key West Harbor.