The students' boat-building experience was provided through Urban BoatWorks, a new partnership between UrbanPromise Ministries in East Camden and the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum.
"We want to provide city kids with recreational and instructional opportunities on the water," said Jim Cummings, director of Urban Trekkers, which oversees the program. "Not only boat building, but swimming, sailing, rowing."
Since September, Davis, Savercool, and six other Camden Forward middle schoolers - most of whom had little experience with boats, never mind building them - toiled away on the vessels under the guidance of experienced boat-builders.
Working two hours a week in a small workshop at the museum, they completed their boats in May.
Saturday, during a ceremony at Cooper River Yacht Club, the students will officially launch their sailboats, which they christened the Monarch and the Journey.
"It's going to be fun, because everyone will see our boats and us sailing them," said Charleston Clark, 13, of Pennsauken. "They'll see what we accomplished."
As part of the program, which was free for the participants and funded by private and state grants, the students were given swimming lessons at the Boys' and Girls' Club of Camden, and taught to sail at the Cooper River Yacht Club.
The program is operating on a shoestring budget, Cummings said.
"We'd like to reach more kids from other schools," he said.
The class is a character-building lesson, said Mike Lang, a project director at the shipyard museum.
"It's a very rare feat to say, not only can I sail, but I built the boat myself," he said.
"It might inspire them to go to college and become a naval architect; who knows?" added Commodore Judy Lazo of the Cooper River Yacht Club.
Last summer, Urban BoatWorks led a group of Camden high school students in constructing a pair of 12-foot rowboats.
The sailboat building class began last fall, when Cummings and his staff placed two big stacks of marine plywood at the students' feet.
"There were a lot of blank looks from the kids," Cummings remembered with a laugh.
Boat-building is laborious, he said.
First, the students used copper wire to sew the plywood together in the shape of a hull.
Once the boats took their shapes, the students removed the stitching and squeezed epoxy, which looks like peanut butter before it hardens, into the boats' joints.
Then came hours and hours of sanding to smooth the surfaces.
"Sanding, sanding, sanding," Davis said, wincing as if she was walking through a sandstorm.
There were times the students were close to mutiny, Cummings joked.
"Like many things in life, boat-building isn't all excitement and thrills," he said with a smile. "There's a lot of boring, repetitive work to get to the final result, but that only makes the final result so much sweeter."
Savercool remembered the day when the booms and masts were finally rigged, and the sails hung.
"I just felt really proud," she said.
This week, the students and their instructors took the boats out for a practice spin on Cooper River in preparation for Saturday's big event.
It was stifling hot; the air was suffocating; the wind only a few knots.
"I hate sailing on days like this," said Clark, stepping onto the Journey. "This wind has no wind."
On a test run two weeks earlier, Clark had capsized when he forgot to ease his mainsail after it caught a gust of western wind.
Now, another breeze caught his sail. Scrunching his face in concentration, he eased his lines, and, after an unsure moment, the boat sailed smoothly.
"That's better," he said.
Davis' mother and two little sisters had joined her at the pier. Davis and some of the other students recently were awarded a scholarship for a summer sailing course at the yacht club.
"At times she struggled with the class," said her mother, Shakira, 28, a nursing student. "But she stuck with it."
The whole family will be there Saturday, she said, including Davis' 6-year-old sister, Nyla.
"I'm proud of her," Nyla said, "because now I get to watch her sail."
Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 856-779-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.