NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A local nonprofit is on a mission to teach life skills through woodworking.

The group has already worked with more than 800 kids and teens in our area, and now, they are teaching new skills to a new age group.

Inside the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop warehouse is where Asia Caravallo defies expectations.

“Every time I mention to someone that I’m woodworking, they’re like, really, you?,” she said.

The 19-year-old is a singer/songwriter and, as unexpected as it might seem, eager to learn about carpentry.

Caravallo said, “I really loved their tag line or their quote of ‘life skills through boatbuilding.'”

Caravallo learned about the program through Thomas Brandl, the founder and executive director of the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop.

“It’s a youth educational nonprofit that teaches math, science, and life skills to Hampton Roads Youth,” said Brandl.

He founded the nonprofit back in 2015 after hearing about similar programs nationwide, but not finding one here.

Back in the fall of 2021, they launched a new program for disconnected youth ages 17-24.

“The definition for that are kids who are not, they’ve graduated high school or maybe not. They’re not going to college, they’re not in any training,” said Brandl.

The volunteers will provide training through the Carpenter’s Union, using their career connections pre-apprentice program manuals to teach carpentry skills.

The students earn a stipend, and while they won’t learn everything about carpentry, it’s a good place to start.

“A lot of the basic skills of how to use tools, safety, terminology,” Brandl said.

Brandl added it’s about a lot more than woodworking skills. “The self-confidence, the critical thinking, problem solving. All the skills that employers in any industry are looking for.”

It’s those skills Caravallo says she’ll take home with her.

“In every aspect of my life, I started thinking of stuff that I learned here,” Caravallo said. “I was like ‘what would I do in woodworking?’ and apply that everywhere else.”

The 24-week program ends in March and they are looking to start another soon after it ends. You can learn more by clicking here.