November 9, 2017

New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Apprenticeship Program Receives National Award

One of 12 awardees in the country and the only New England winner

New Bedford, Mass. – New Bedford Whaling Museum has won a prestigious award for a program that is transforming the lives of youth in its community. The Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program has won the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

The award is presented through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in cooperation with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

The Whaling Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program is one of 12 winners across the country, out of 342 youth programs, and it is the only awardee in New England. For 19 years, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award has been the most prestigious award in the country for creative youth development programs in after-school and out-of-school settings. This year’s awardees continue that proud tradition by representing the finest in creative youth development programs from across the country.

The evidence is well-documented that creative youth development programs promote the skills our country’s youth need to succeed in school, in their chosen professions, and in life. And the recognition of these programs by every federal arts and cultural agency offers validation of those outcomes.

The Museum provides low-income, academically motivated students with access to resources and experiences that deepen community engagement, promote personal and professional development, and cultivate college and career success. The program was started in 2010 in response to the community’s formidable challenges. New Bedford, Massachusetts, once the richest city in America, is economically disadvantaged. Only 20 percent of its residents have a college degree and nearly 30 percent of the population does not have a high school diploma. Meanwhile, 100 percent of Whaling Museum apprentices have graduated from high school and 94 percent have gone on to post-secondary schools.

“If it weren’t for the Apprenticeship Program, I never would have found a passion for life like I have now,” said Alex Binette, a former Whaling Museum Apprentice and current Bristol Community College student. “They took a chance on me with my less than stellar academic record, but I began my training with the Museum in 2015 and it has changed me forever. When I started the apprenticeship, I was flooded with knowledge and, for once, I was remembering everything. I was thriving amongst my peers and making friends, asking questions, and answering them. I've been through a lifetime of public schooling and I had never learned like I did as an apprentice.”

Maria Cardoso, a third-year Museum apprentice, moved to the U.S. from Cabo Verde when she was 10. She remembers sitting in class and not understanding a word of English. New to the country and language, she was extremely shy and didn’t have many friends. Now 18 years old, and about to graduate from the Apprenticeship Program, not only is she more comfortable speaking in public, but she has a large support system around her.

In addition to assisting students through the college application and financial aid processes, the Museum arranges college campus tours and career shadow events that allow apprentices to get a first-hand look at potential career paths. After a job shadow day at a courthouse, for instance, Maria Cardoso decided to pursue a career in criminal justice. “I plan to attend Bridgewater State University in the fall. I could not have achieved all of this without the help of all the staff at the Whaling Museum,” Maria said.

Through the Program, students learn about whales and whale biology, the history of the American whaling industry, the art and artists that flourished in the region, Frederick Douglass and New Bedford’s connection to the Underground Railroad, and learn the stories of the countless immigrants from the Azores, Cabo Verde, and elsewhere, whose culture, language, and accomplishments are alive in the community and exhibited throughout the Museum.

The Apprenticeship Program’s Director Christina Turner works closely with each student to ensure that they are getting the personalized support they need. “Working alongside Christina was such an amazing experience,” said Alex Binette. “I look to her as a personal and professional role model. I'm excited to see where she will take this program and the lives she’ll continue to change.”

Students also receive support services to address issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, and health issues through contracted partner institutions. This combination of emotional and academic support enables apprentices to stay in school and thrive.

“100 percent of our Program’s alumni have graduated high school, which was an original goal of the program. What we are continually impressed by is the program’s notable impact that goes well beyond simply graduating,” said Sarah Rose, Vice President of Education and Programs.

“We’re so proud to support the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program,” said Anita Walker, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “This program demonstrates that powerful, relevant, youth-centered learning can provide young people facing difficult circumstances the tools for lifelong success. This national award is well deserved and a testament to the commitment of the Museum, its educators, and all its supporters who have contributed to its success.”

“The New Bedford Whaling Museum has done an incredible job providing the young people of New Bedford with both the motivation and the tools needed to succeed well beyond high school graduation,” said State Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford). “This apprenticeship program deserves this prestigious national recognition. There are few other programs in the country that capitalize on a rich history and the strong sense of community to create opportunities for the next generation of leaders like the Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program does in New Bedford.”

For interviews. images or full access to video contact:
Tina Malott
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum

Video Preview:

apprentice holding a career book









Apprentices holding balloon dragon







apprentices in Azorean Whaleboat in parade






About the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $17, seniors (65+) $15, students (19+) $10, child and youth $7. For more information visit