Newburgh Rowing Club Kicks off Student Ambassador Program - Daily Hudson Valley News

Newburgh Rowing Club Kicks off Student Ambassador Program

Jan 11th, 2014 | By | Category: Community Happenings

On January 6, 2014, rowers and coaches from the Newburgh Rowing Club took to the pool at the Union Avenue Community Fitness Center in New Windsor, NY to teach approximately 20 deserving children, ranging from ages 8 – 15, to swim, in preparation for the U.S. Rowing Swim Test.

“We are delighted to be in our third year of teaching children to swim so that they can pass the U.S. Rowing Swim Test and eventually learn to row on open water,” said Coach Ed Kennedy, a former varsity swim coach and the Programs Director of the Newburgh Rowing Club.  “This program, funded by grants from the Hudson River Improvement Fund, and donations, has been a resounding success.”  Coach Leif Stepakoff, former Head Coach of the Hudson Valley Blue Fish, was also present and got in the water to teach the students.

Newburgh Rowing Student Ambassador Program

Group shot of some of the Student Ambassadors and the Rowers who helped teach them, at the Union Avenue Community Fitness CenterXX – photo provided

“This is hands down one of the greatest programs in Newburgh,” said Juliana LoBiondo, Team Mom for the Newburgh Rowing Club and Director of the Student Ambassador Program.  “Many years ago, Coach Kennedy, a physical education teacher in the Newburgh School System, saw a need.  He found that he could take deserving kids, who were unable to afford the tuition of a private rowing club, and teach them to row on ergometers (indoor rowing machines) but the children were unable to swim and therefore unable to pass the swim test required to row on open water.  When my kids joined the rowing club in 2010, I asked Coach Kennedy if we could start a program to teach kids to swim so that they could pass the test, and then teach them to row.  Thanks to the HRIF grant, and the fact that the Head Coaches and rowers volunteer their time, we have taught over 75 children to row sufficiently well to pass the U.S. Rowing swim test, and this program is now in its third year.  Once the applicants for the program are approved, they never pay a dime, the Program covers their tuition, entry fees at meets, uniforms and incidentals.  All we ask is that they come back and use the skills we invested in them to help role model and teach the younger generation to swim and to row.”

“We start very basic,” said Coach Kennedy, “initially, it is a victory to be able to get kids to put their face in the water and blow bubbles.  But we have this down to a science and once they get over their initial trepidation of the water, they go from bobbing around like little guppies to swimming like big, strong fish.”

On hand to teach the swim candidates were several varsity level rowers, including Anya Sendelbach, Nicole Rabe, Kerry Kennedy, and Kelvin Vidalis.  Vidalis is a freshman at Our Lady of Lourdes High School and a member of the Newburgh Rowing Club, said LoBiondo.  He and his brother, Anthony Solis, taught several youngsters, including their younger brother, 9 year old Jorge Solis, and a cousin, to swim.  “That’s how this works,” said Team Mom LoBiondo.  “Kelvin was one of our first Student Ambassadors in 2010.  Now Kelvin is the complete package, a scholar athlete.  He recently took Bronze at the Head of the Scuylkill Regatta, the largest one-day rowing regatta in the world.  He is constantly training and competing, but also passing on his knowledge to the even younger generation of future rowers.”

“I love to swim and I love to row,” said Karla Gunera, a student at Nora Cronin Presentation Academy, who was present with her fellow crew team members from Nora Cronin.  “I can’t wait to move up from Novice to Competitive rowing!”

NRC Student Ambassador Program

Coach Ed Kennedy on deck, as Student Ambassadors and helpers listen to instructions – photo provided

For more information about the Newburgh Rowing Club’s programs, contact Programs Director Coach Ed Kennedy at (845) 541-2313.  For more information about the Student Ambasador Program, contact Juliana LoBiondo, Team Mom and Director of the scholarship-based Newburgh Rowing Student Ambassador Program.


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