Rowing into Friendships and Confidence

Getting into college is challenging, but trying to get in on a rowing scholarship is even harder. According to a news article in the New York Times, written by Juliet Macur, for Sebastiana Lopez, it is more challenging than it ever has been. Currently, Lopez is a high school senior, 17 years old, and she is the leader of a rowing team. Ever since she was an eighth grader, she signed up for a nonprofit organization, Row New York. This organization’s main goal is to teach underprivileged New York City students how to row and at the same time give them academic support and college counseling that they may not be able to afford if they didn’t get into this program. Sebastiana was motivated to join because she loves rowing and she wanted to boost her resume, but she also knew that it was going to be difficult for her family to support her financially if she got accepted into any college.

Row New York doesn’t just give underprivileged students the ability to gain scholarships, but they also defy many stereotypes that are attached to rowing as a sport. A stereotype is an overly fixed idea, or image, of a certain group of people or thing. In other words, people attach a certain idea that they formed over time to a person or thing, but it may not necessarily be true. In this case, many of the Row New York teams go against the usual stereotypes of rowing as a sport. Whenever people usually look at the sport of rowing they see it as a sport for the wealthy, since all of the equipment is expensive, and for the white, because those are the only people you see in competitions these days. Many of the people that are registered rowers in the United States are identified as white but, Lopez’s teammates are the opposite of this stereotype. “Lopez’s teammates are first-generation Americans… with parents from countries like Mexico, China, Ecuador and Belize, and several are immigrants” (Macur). This is a stereotype because whenever people think of the sport of rowing, they associate the wealthy to it. This is due to the fact that the sporting equipment is expensive and, the competition locations are far away which would mean that you need to be able to afford to go across the country for tournaments. Also, most of the rowers that are registered are white, which has been like this for a long time, but what they don’t know is that there are more and m

ore people of color that are rowing as well. The public has been forming their opinion on this for a while, which means they are less likely to believe that the times are changing due to these stereotypes. The girls that are in this organization are from different neighborhoods that are located all over New York City, and they are extremely determined to change their lives for the better. Lopez herself also defies the stereotype in many ways. She is from Queens, and she lives in a three-bedroom apartment with her parents, who are Mexican immigrants, and her two younger brothers. She knows that her parents work extremely hard in order to support her family as well. Her father works 13 hours a day to support his family and her mother works long hours in a nail salon. This only makes Sebastiana work even harder to achieve her own goals not just for herself, but for her family as well.

This program is not just for getting a good scholarship and doing well on standardized tests, it is also a way for the youth that do join to make friends. Most of these students feel a need to belong to some group so that they can “get away from the pressures of their daily lives” (Macur). The feeling of needing to belong is also a kind of motivation to get to know others and form relationships that provide positive effects in the long run. Arshay Cooper, the program’s chief community and youth engagement officer, said that when he was on a rowing team in the program “he and his teammates used the sport to escape the hardships in their neighborhoods” (Macur). Sebastiana also felt like the rowing team helped shape her into a better version of herself. She was very shy before she made the team, and she was also very afraid of swimming, she failed her swim test two times, but her teammates helped support her by telling her that she could do it. Her teammate, Naya Clark, said “I’m here for you, and you got it!” (Macur). Now, Sebastiana and Naya are best friends. This one interaction made the feeling of needing to belong draw her to the group even more. She felt like she wanted to belong in this group of people that bring each other up and want to bring the best out of each other, this was something that she never experienced before. The friendships that she built over time helped keep her involved, and made her even more invested in what her group was doing and going to achieve in the future. Lopez herself even said “they trusted me. It makes you feel like you matter and belong” (Macur). Now, Sebastiana Lopez feels like her need to belong to a certain group helped motivate her into becoming best friends with everyone in her rowing team. She didn’t just gain a scholarship out of rowing, but she also gained her best friends and the confidence that she never knew she had.

Macur, Juliet. “She Wants to Row to Get From N.Y.C. Into College.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2019,

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