For the past 16 years, one Queens-based organization has been teaching under-resourced girls in the borough about rowing, while preparing them for academic success.
Since 2002, Row New York has been teaching middle school and high school students about rowing and all of the benefits that come along with the sport. The World’s Fair Boathouse in Flushing Meadows Corona Park was where the organization first started taking out young rowers.
“Rowing is a unique sport,” said Colleen Bailey, who has been the chief marketing officer of Row New York for the past three years. “In other sports, you have the superhero who can control whether the team wins or not. But rowing is the ultimate team sport.”
The organization was founded by executive director and founder Amanda Kraus, who was the captain of the women’s crew team while attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
According to Bailey, Kraus realized that rowing is traditionally a sport that is elitist and white, enjoyed by students who attend top schools around the country. She added that Kraus wanted the sport to be accessible to everyone in New York City, especially people of color who may not have access to the sport otherwise.
Bailey said that there are about 35 middle school students and 45 high school students enrolled in the Queens program. Eighty-four percent of the students in the program are enrolled for free, based on their income levels, and 15 percent are enrolled on a sliding scale. The chief marketing officer said that the organization puts great emphasis on having socioeconomic diversity in the program.
She added that all of the Queens rowers are girls because that is how the organization originated 16 years ago, and Kraus decided to keep it that way as time went on. Boys who are interested in rowing can participate in the programs they have in Brooklyn and Manhattan. In total, Bailey said there are about 260 students across all programs.
The skills that the youth learn in the programs include increased physical strength, tenacity, focus, teamwork and confidence, according to the Row New York website. Bailey said the skills that they learn through the sport translate to the students’ academics as well. Three to four days a week, the kids are out on the water, and another three to four days a week, they have academic sessions.
“One hundred percent of students in our program graduate high school, and 96 percent of them go on to college,” Bailey said.
Bailey said that the feedback that she receives from kids in the program is remarkably consistent.
“Almost all the kids talk about how strong they feel,” she said, adding that the kids in the program also remark on their increased fitness levels, athleticism, confidence and pride for participating in such a difficult sport.