Published on July 14th, 2013 | by NS0
The Sport of Rowing has had Tremendous Influence on Chicago Teens
Chicago Teens Take Up Rowing With Great Results
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is the last place you’d expect to find anyone practicing a signature sport of the Ivy League, yet on a gray July evening, here they were: two dozen city kids in racing boats sculling past graffiti-bombed factories and fields of rubble.
Among the oarsmen was Jocelyn Duran, 14, a quiet and diminutive girl from Little Village whose life, thanks to her involvement with the sport, is about to change dramatically.
She has received a full scholarship to attend Northfield Mount Hermon, a $50,000-a-year boarding school nestled in the hills of western Massachusetts. Rowing helped her to win over the admissions office, but her coach hopes the sport will carry her even further.
“Rowing operates in this really interesting place that maybe other sports don’t,” said Montana Butsch of the Chicago Training Center, a nonprofit group that uses the sport to try to improve the prospects of working-class teens. “There are no professional (teams), but there is access to high-level education and (social and business) networks, really interesting people and experiences. That’s stuff you can parlay into the rest of your life.”
Football, basketball and boxing have long been portrayed as tickets out of low-income neighborhoods, giving young people dreams of college scholarships or pro careers. But in recent years, other sports have begun to offer a different vision of athletic deliverance.
They are sports such as lacrosse, squash and sailing, pastimes generally associated with the wealthy and privileged. Boosters say they offer an old-fashioned kind of social uplift by creating the habits, friendships and educational opportunities that can help teens connect with successful people.
“They have the opportunity to build social capital, and that’s a really critical thing,” said David Kay of METROsquash, a program that trains Chicago Public Schools students in the hallmark sport of Wall Street. “That really breaks down barriers, being able to play with a colleague or friend. It’s really a great tool for building relationships. It will provide introductions for them throughout their lives.”
METROsquash, which formed in 2005, combines athletic instruction with academic tutoring. The combination has helped some students gain admission to well-regarded charter schools and prestigious out-of-state boarding schools, Kay said.
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