Rowing program helps girls grow

Queens high school girls are learning how to “row, row, row your boat” through a program aptly named Row New York (RNY).
Amanda Kraus, executive director of RNY, was inspired to launch the lessons in the summer of 2002 after working for an organization named Girls Row Boston as a graduate student.
The following summer, the organization got a head coach, more boats and had received its first grant.
In the five years since its inception, RNY has now grown to have a competitive high school program with 50 students. They have also partnered with the Department of Education to run a recreational rowing program for middle school students and hold summer camps.
“Now is the fun part, I think,” Kraus said. “It feels great now because it was definitely really, really hard in the beginning.”
Taking part in RNY involves a large time commitment on the part of the students. Along with rowing six-days-a-week, going out on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, they also receive academic help through the program, which runs from September to June, with the girls doing indoor training and competitions in the winter. Through the year, they participate in about 12 competitions.
“The idea that we have here is that you can’t change a young person’s life by running a drop-in center or something that’s once a week,” Kraus said. “If you want to fundamentally change a young woman’s life, it needs to be daily interaction, daily challenges and not just for six months but year after year.”
Kraus said that taking part in RNY has many benefits for the students. She said that their grades, SAT scores, health and fitness improve and they gain more strength. Kraus also said that they get support and enjoyment from being members of the organization.
“They become like sisters to one another and they get to know [each other] really well,” she said.
This year marks the first time that some of the graduating seniors have been with the program for all four of their high school years. Among them is Monique Carter, who is finishing her senior year at Flushing High School. She is going on to Michigan State on a full rowing scholarship.
Carter said that she initially joined because it was a different sport to try, and she didn’t want to play basketball like everyone thought she would. She said that, although she wasn’t very good at rowing when she first started, she is glad that she stayed with it.
“When I tried RNY, it was amazing because it taught me a different way of life,” Carter said.
Carter said that she liked knowing that her teammates depended on her, and that she made many friends.
“I’m glad I got to know some of these girls because they’re really amazing,” she said.
Kraus said that RNY is currently in the middle of a three-year growth plan. By the end of 2008, she estimates that the program will have about 400 girls on the water.
For more information on Row New York, visit www.rownewyork.org, call 718-433-3075 or e-mail info@rownewyork.org.

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