Amanda Kraus & Row New York

By Sparks Editorial Staff | August 23, 2013

Row New York empowers youth from New York City's under-resourced communities to build strength, gain confidence, and pursue excellence through the sport of competitive rowing. The year-round programs for middle and high school students combine an intensive athletic training program with comprehensive academic support. In 2013, the organization is celebrating 10 years of success for its student-athletes, on the water and in the classroom.

"Every positive change that occurs in my life I can easily connect back to Row New York. It opened up doors of opportunity that allowed me to step out of the box society designed for me."

In a city surrounded by water, the initial search for a location for a rowing program was surprisingly difficult, as tides, currents, and boat traffic make many of NYC's waterways unsuitable for the sport. Row New York's founder and Executive Director, Amanda Kraus, finally settled on the boathouse on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. A ghostly remnant from New York City's two World's Fairs, the boathouse had not been renovated since the 1960s, and Kraus found it boarded up and partially filled with old refrigerators, squirrels, and other trash. The New York City Parks Department agreed that if Row New York cleared out the trash and made the space useable, the nascent rowing team could use the facility for free.

Row New York empowers youth from New York City's under-resourced communities to build strength, gain confidence, and pursue excellence through the sport of competitive rowing.

Ten years later, Row New York has close to 100 girls rowing six days a week at the Meadow Lake Boathouse. After a multi-million dollar facelift funded by the city government, due in part to the organization's robust program engaging members of the local community, the boathouse is now filled with sunlight and air, and in addition to a spacious boat bay, includes a workout room and classroom space that are usable year round. Starting in 2010, the organization's Queens location also became home to recreational and competitive adaptive rowing activities for New Yorkers with disabilities.

In the meantime, Row New York opened a second on-water site in spring 2012 – the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on the Harlem River. The Sharp boathouse is also home to a youth program serving close to 100 middle and high school students six days a week – and it is the location of Row New York's first program for boys. Sharp also houses Row New York's learn-to-row programs for adults and its small but growing masters team.

In 2013, the organization is celebrating 10 years of success for its student-athletes, on the water and in the classroom.

In its 10-year history, Row New York's high school team has built a reputation as a fast, competitive crew, and a serious contender in the region. In just the past few years, the team has earned gold medals at the Mercer Lake Sprints, the Head of the Passaic, the Bill Braxton Memorial Regatta, and the New York State Championship, among others.

the young people on Row New York's current middle and high school teams are 17% immigrants and 44% first generation Americans with nations of origin stretching across the globe.

At the same time, the organization's keen focus on college access and success has helped its graduates earn rowing and academic scholarships to Syracuse, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Michigan State, Rutgers, Fordham, Northeastern, and many other competitive institutions of higher learning. The team travels to 10 to 15 regattas each year, often combining race trips with college visits – and many of these visits are hosted by graduates of the program who are now rowing with their college teams.

Accurately reflecting the diversity of New York City, the young people on Row New York's current middle and high school teams are 17% immigrants and 44% first generation Americans with nations of origin stretching across the globe. Ever day on the dock, teamwork is equally as evident as the variety of cultures and ethnicities that the team members represent, and unique success stories abound:

Tenzin Khangkar joined the Row New York team in 2010, just four years after immigrating to Queens with her family. Her parents are Tibetan, and Tenzin grew up in Nepal. Fitting into her new surroundings was a challenge for Tenzin, especially at school, where she was very shy to speak up for herself. When she joined Row New York as a petite high school sophomore, her coaches immediately saw that she would be the perfect coxswain. Tenzin quickly learned that in this role, she did not have the option to be shy. Guided by her strong voice and leadership, the Row New York novice 8+ earned a gold medal at the New York State Championship in spring 2011. Tenzin is now close to completing her freshman year at University of Wisconsin/Madison, where she is a Posse Scholar and coxes the UW women's crew.

Simone D'Abreu joined the Row New York team in 2006 and graduated from Queens High School of Teaching in 2008. Already a good student when she joined the program, Simone benefited from Row New York tutoring and other academics supports, along with the high standards of achievement upheld by her coaches and teammates, and she earned a scholarship to study and row at Smith. A first generation American with family roots in Guyana, Simone approached her studies and her extra-curriculars with her usual seriousness and intensity, and four years later, in spring 2012, she graduated from Smith. She is now living in Washington D.C. and working as a research assistant at the FCC. Of her experience of high school crew Simone says, "Every positive change that occurs in my life I can easily connect back to Row New York. It opened up doors of opportunity that allowed me to step out of the box society designed for me."

- Kathleen Klock