We are continuing to highlight the work of our Youth Activity grantees during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Today, we share a glimpse at the work of Community Rowing, Inc. With its Let's Row Boston program, CRI has made it possible for students from across Boston to experience the sport of rowing, and given them access to an avenue for lifelong fitness. Eileen Minzner shares a glimpse into CRI's remarkable work.
If you happen to stop by the Harry Parker Boathouse in Brighton anytime in May or June, you will see an iconic boathouse rivalling the finest rowing institutions in the world, yet with one key difference: dozens of school buses full of public school students from all across Boston learning to row. Four years ago, CRI set out on an ambitious initiative--to make rowing a mainstream sport for students on the Boston Public Schools. With lessons learned from twenty years of our original girls-only program (G-Row Boston), we knew we had to address some key barriers to mass participation for Boston youth in a sport like rowing: transportation, lack of swimming ability, and lack of family resources to dedicate to after-school sports.
Let’s Row Boston was launched as a broad initiative, addressing all of these barriers at once. By bringing rowing into the schools, through a dedicated PE unit on indoor rowing that culminates each year with a championship event--the YETI--and a field trip to the boathouse for on-water rowing, we have now introduced more than 12,000 BPS students to the sport of rowing. The indoor rowing program is currently working with 40 different school across Boston. As a seated activity that burns more calories than almost any other activity, we are able to use indoor rowing integrate students who are not sport-involved, or who have mobility or cognitive impairments in the same activity.
The middle school PE unit is the first step a student can take to get involved at a higher level if he or she chooses. PE classes come to the boathouse for on-water rowing, where they receive information about our free summer programs for Boston youth. There are on water competitions such as the Mayor’s Cup (first weekend in June each year) and the Mike Moran Cup (early November each year). As high school students, youth from Boston can join our Row Boston crew, which is a competitive team that travels to local, regional, and sometime national level competitions, including the Massachusetts Public High School Rowing Championships.
Our biggest success is the transformational effect we see in the students who stay in the program for multiple years. Students gain confidence on and off the water, and many have gone on to row in college and return for summer employment with us as junior coaches. Our vision is that all students will have access to the physical, social, and emotional benefits that a lifelong involvement with rowing can instill.
Our biggest opportunity heading into the next school year will be to recruit the rising 8th graders who are moving from our participating middle schools to our high school Row Boston program. The time commitment is greater, but the growth and support that the students receive as they pursue more competitive opportunities is invaluable. This year, our students went on an overnight college tour to the Philadelphia area, and visited five different campus, and got to row out of the prestigious Princeton University boathouse for an afternoon. The faces of the kids getting off the van after that trip was priceless. “That place was AMAZING!”
For more information on CRI's program for middle school students, contact Eddy Mog at Eddy@communityrowing.org, and for high school opportunities, please contact Jovia Manzi at Jovia@communityrowing.org.