Students Revel in Rowing Activities

Sam P.K. Collins | 11/13/2013, 3 p.m.
Eight students from Eliot-Hine Middle and Eastern High Schools recently showcased their newly acquired rowing skills and received honors before ...
Students who attend Eliot-Hine Middle School and Eastern High School row on the Anacostia River. (Courtesy photo)

Eight students from Eliot-Hine Middle and Eastern High Schools recently showcased their newly acquired rowing skills and received honors before an audience of parents, teachers, and neighborhood volunteers at the Anacostia Community Boathouse in Southeast.

The Nov. 2nd event culminated five weeks of rowing instruction sponsored by DC Strokes, a local rowing club that offers activities for people of all skill levels, and Serve Your City, a Northwest-based nonprofit committed to enhancing the student experience in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) with an array of extracurricular activities.

“We want to introduce kids to the Anacostia River and the Anacostia Boathouse Association,” said Rachel Freedman, 36, head novice and winter training coach at DC Strokes. “[At the beginning of the program], we point out [familiar places like the nearby] skating rink [in relation] to the boathouse. We also try to talk about environmental activism in passing – like not putting your trash in the street,” said Freedman who lives in Northeast.

The rowing classes, which started in late-September, offered students an overview of the rowing equipment, its functions, as well as basic techniques. Serve Your City volunteers drove students to the Anacostia Community Boathouse on Tuesday evenings where they trained on ergometers, indoor rowing machines that simulate rowing activity and strengthen muscles. Toward the end of the program, the group of students stepped onto a barge, a flat-bottomed boat, and rowed on the Anacostia River.

“The kids initially weren't too excited about sitting [on] the ergometers,” said Aisling Casey, 19, a Serve Your City tutor and volunteer. “When they finally got on the water, they realized their hard work [paid] off,” said Casey, a freshman at The George Washington University who lives in Ridgewood, N.J.

At the awards ceremony, they confidently demonstrated the process of rowing, first taking the barge out of the nearby boathouse and holding it over their heads as they walked down to the river bank. They then loaded it onto the water, hopped in, and paddled their way around the river in a synchronizing motion with a rowing instructor at the head of the barge.

Tiffany Curry watched in awe as her daughter Niya, 14, an eighth-grader at Eliot-Hine in Northeast, worked with the other students to load the barge and row on the river. She said that rowing has captured the youngster’s attention more than any other activity and she wants her to further develop her skills after the program ends.

“She found a passion for this sport in five weeks,” said Curry, 38. “At first, she was scared of the water but she learned to go out there without a life jacket. It made her a team player and boosted her self-esteem. Now she’s looking at the long-term – going to college and even becoming an Olympian,” said Curry who lives in Southeast.

Tynika Young, principal at Eliot-Hine, said the rowing program, the first of its kind for both D.C. public schools, has given the students options beyond basketball and football to explore for recreational activities.