Inner city middle school youth from the poorest neighborhoods in Maryland—kids who once couldn’t swim—are now rowing in high-tech racing shells on the Middle Branch Basin as an avenue to college scholarships. That’s what we’re doing at the Baltimore Rowing Club in a new program called Reach High Baltimore: Rowers Empowering Baltimore City Youth.
This past fall, we had 24 girls and 12 boys from South Baltimore. We recruit 6th and 7th graders to become rowers, teaching them to swim, get fit, and achieve in school. Once the middle school youth move on to high school they row with the high school team. We encourage students to aim high for rowing scholarships from the elite institutions of higher learning.
Ten girls who started rowing in the pilot program last spring raced for the first time in November at the Head of the Occoquan against high school teams from around the country. Reach High Baltimore is supported by the Baltimore Rowing Club, foundations, corporations and individuals. One donor in particular, Pat Turner of Turner Development, has been funding rowing scholarships for five years.
Is it foolish to think we could break through social, racial, and economic glass ceilings in one fell swoop? Inner city rowing is just the beginning.