Established in 1979 on the south bank of the Middle Branch Basin, the Baltimore Rowing Club is located between two of Baltimore’s highest poverty neighborhoods, Cherry Hill and Westport. In 2011, the Rowing Club created a new after-school and summer program, called Reach High Baltimore, in an effort to introduce Baltimore City public school students to the benefits of rowing, and to share the club’s resources with children from the surrounding communities. Rowing offers tremendous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. At the same time, rowing builds teamwork and demands focus and commitment. In addition to reaping the physical and mental benefits of rowing, high school rowers gain access to college scholarship opportunities, and because there are so few high school students who row competitively, there is less competition for rowing scholarships than for scholarships in many other sports.
Starting with 12 sixth- and seventh-grade girls in 2011, Reach High now serves 250 boys and girls in four distinct seasons. The Reach High participants have become skilled rowers, training for and participating in competitive races throughout the region, and some have competed in national and international races, including two groups of Reach High girls who rowed in the Henley Women’s Regatta in England in summer 2016. In addition to the after-school and summer rowing seasons, Reach High partners with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks to offer a six-week summer camp that features swimming instruction, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and environmental education.
One of the goals of Reach High is to integrate students from City Schools with students who participate in the Rowing Club’s Juniors Program, most of whom attend private schools and are from more affluent families than the Reach High participants. Through Reach High, students from very different backgrounds come together to train, travel, compete, and share a commitment to the sport of rowing. In 2015, Reach High was honored by U.S. Rowing with an award recognizing their success in engaging underserved youth. In awarding the honor, U.S. Rowing’s Director of Operations singled out Reach High Baltimore as “the model outreach rowing program for the nation.”