WINTHROP — A plastic bag draped over and fastened to a circular pool noodle, held up in water by milk jugs and twigs, kept floating after one brick was lowered onto it.

The “boat” hadn’t sunk with two bricks on board, nor with three. It held on with four and even five. Then it finally succumbed to the laws of physics and sank below the surface of Lake Cobbossee when the sixth brick was piled on.

This was the junkyard regatta portion of a Jobs for Maine’s Graduates training program at the YMCA Camp of Maine. And the team of students from China Middle School held their own in the competition, in which they were given a bag of scrap material and told to fashion a boat that could hold up under the bricks’ weight.

“It held up better than we thought it would,” said Summer Sinclair, a 13-year-old China eighth-grader.

Summer and her team were among the roughly 75 students at the YMCA Camp of Maine on Wednesday for a series of exercises meant to boost their leadership skills. Most of the students had been elected to leadership posts in their Jobs for Maine’s Graduates programs at schools across the state.

The YMCA Camp of Maine on Lake Cobbossee in Winthrop is playing host this week to about 300 students who serve as leaders in their Jobs for Maine’s Graduates programs.

On Wednesday, students from the 15 Jobs for Maine’s Graduates middle-school programs fashioned boats, tackled ropes courses and prepared public service announcements after spending a night in the summer camp’s bunks.

Students from high school Jobs for Maine’s Graduates programs will do the same today and Friday.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates was formed in 1993 as a way to reach students at risk of not finishing high school. The program, which operates as a nonprofit organization, is offered to students as a regular school class period.

Students can enroll if they show they have a personal barrier that might prevent them from finishing high school. Those barriers could include absenteeism, academic troubles or low family income. The program is offered at 61 middle and high schools.

The program offers students job-shadowing opportunities, help with job and college applications, and a chance to sharpen leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

The boat building exercise tested China Middle School students on just those abilities. And given the limited time and resources available to them, it wasn’t always pretty.

“It went, actually, very smoothly, but we did have arguments,” said Zoe Mather, 13.

The idea is that the students’ leadership abilities will continue to develop throughout the school year, with the series of activities at the YMCA camp offering a taste of what’s to come.

Zoe, the China program’s treasurer, said team members ended up assuming distinct roles as they worked on the junkyard regatta boat.

“We can get things done,” she said.

Summer, the group’s vice president, effectively ended the arguments that held up the team, Zoe said. Other participants supplied ideas, she said.

Brandon Choate, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, stayed faithful to his role as the group’s historian — by the end of the junkyard regatta, he had snapped 184 photos of the leadership conference.

“I’m not much of an ideas guy,” he said. “I take orders.”

Matthew Stone — 623-3811, ext. 435

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