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Friday, March 27, 2015

Will the sport of rowing ever be safe from stereotypes?

TO THE KID WHO HOPES HE “WON’T GET JUMPED BY A BUNCH OF STUDENT AMBASSADORS” - recently a local kid wrote that he wanted to help his buddy out (recruiting our rowers) but that he didn’t “want to get jumped by a bunch of student ambassadors.”  Come on now, what are they going to do, smother you in their cuteness?  I mean, have you guys seen my Student Ambassadors?  They're adorable.  And brilliant.  And hard working.  And athletic.  And commmunity-minded.  Maybe they'll jump some common sense into you.

The Student Ambassadors are the certified members of America Rows and Swims Newburgh, an official affiliate of America Rows, the inclusion branch of USRowing, the national governing body of the sport of rowing.  This I know because I am the founder and Director of America Rows and Swims Newburgh.  We provide rowing scholarships for underserved youth in the City of Newburgh to have an after school swim club and row for the Newburgh Rowing Club.  In all honesty, we have dealt with a LOT of prejudice over the years and it is disappointing every time I see it rear its ugly head again.

Our Student Ambassadors don't have the mentality, much less the time or the energy to "jump" anyone.  I keep them super busy and that's not a mistake.  There is NEVER a shortage of things for them to do, and their biggest challenge is prioritizing all the academic, athletic and community commitments I give them.

Little known fact:  if accepted into the program, I have our Student Ambassadors sign 4-page contracts in which they promise, among other things to behave themselves; to swim twice a week at the Hudson Valley Bluefish Swim Club; to come to rowing practice from 3 - 5 times a week; to refrain from negative social media; to keep their grades up; to refrain from drugs and alcohol, and to put in 100 hours a year of community service.

Everyone in this area and in local government knows the term “Student Ambassador”.  Our kids are the ones out there collecting food for the Salvation Army, serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the homeless, delivering presents to the needy during Christmas, ringing the Kettle bell for the salvation army, collecting clothes for hurricane and typhoon victims, shoveling show for the elderly all winter, cleaning and boathouse from top to bottom when asked, providing free swim and rowing instruction, volunteer lifeguarding and more.  When it comes time to fill out their Be Recruited college profiles for them, I usually run out of room they do so much.

We have 30 certified Student Ambassadors from ages 8 - 17.  They are white, black, Latino and Pacific Islander.  They go to public school, have scholarships to private schools worth up to $45,000.00 per year, and attend faith-based schools.  Our Student Ambassadors don’t have time to “Jump” anyone, if they even knew how to do such a thing.  They are too busy rowing, swimming, studying and achieving.  The average GPA of our middle schoolers, all of whom live below the poverty level, is a 95.
So if by "jump" you, you mean overwhelm you with their cuteness, their awesomeness, their brilliance, their athletic ability and their huge hearts then OK be worried.  But if you mean that one of the above pictured little kids is going to jump you like a thug in a back alley, then you must have us mixed up with some other group.  We are scholar athletes, mostly black and brown, but our weapons are our minds and our hearts.  I suggest you open your heart before it's too late.  Esse.

Have a great day, everyone and, as always Remember to Count Your Blessings!  Wish me luck as I take some of our varsity  Student Ambassadors on a road trip overnight to Boston, for the USRowing National ID Camp on Sunday!  

For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit (photo of the silly Tweet and some of our more adorable Student Ambassadors)