Amanda Kraus

Amanda Kraus

With $50, vision and determination, Amanda Kraus, founded Row New York in 2002 and serves at its Executive Director. What began as a pilot program has grown into a thriving organization serving more than 2,000 middle and high school boys and girls a year in Queens and Manhattan. Kraus was named a 2012 Community Leadership Award winner by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Transcripts

Sandi: Welcome to another addition of The 51%, Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.  Water plays a significant and important role in the life of Amanda Kraus. In the mid-90s, when she was at UMass Amherst, she was spotted by members of the school’s crew team, who persuaded the tall athletic freshman to try out for rowing. Although a novice, she took to it, like fish to water, and she wound up a convert. Amanda rowed for four years, then went on to Harvard where she received a Master’s from the school of Ed. She taught, coached and worked in non-profits including a Boston rowing program for disadvantaged inner-city girls, an experience that really impacted her life. Kraus said she thought the marriage of competitive rowing with an underserved population was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that in 2002, she founded Row New York. She started with fifty dollars and tremendous support and encouragement from her then boyfriend and now husband. It was Amanda’s former UMass coach who donated the first two boats. During that inaugural summer, all of eight girls signed up, but that didn’t deter Amanda. She kept at it, raising money and recruiting athletes. Today, Kraus oversees a full time staff of eighteen and twenty part timers, who over the years have provided new opportunities and challenges for thousands of middle and high school students, first girls and now boys. Row New York also provides academic support, financial information and organizes college visits. 98% of the graduates who participate in the year round program have gone on to college, the majority on scholarship. Rowers also compete in an average twelve races a year in the north east and mid-Atlantic. The competitive team has medaled at the New York State Championship for the past four years. In addition to competitive rowing, the program offers summer camps and sessions for disabled children and adults, all the action takes place on Meadow Lake in the borough of Queens and the Harlem River in upper Manhattan. Oh! One more thing, Amanda was named a 2012 Community Leadership Award Winner by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. The honor is presented every year to no more than fifty individuals nationwide and recognizes their efforts to improve the lives of others. Ah! I had a lot to say about you Amanda.

Welcome.

Amanda: Thank you. Thanks for having me here. You did your homework.

Sandi: I sure did.

Amanda: [Laughing]

Sandi: There was a lot of homework to do because this is really pretty impressive and it begs the first question. Did you, in your wildest dreams, ever imagine that this idea would morph into something really so huge and so potent?

Amanda: I don’t think I imagined it would become as large as it has, and impacting as many lives as it actually has and is right now. No, I don’t think I imagined that.

Sandi: How did you know what to do? Can you take us through that steps from the moment that the light bulb went off until today?

Amanda: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think the, the short answer is, I didn’t exactly know what to do. What I did know was that I had seen a program like Row New York working in Boston while I was in graduate school. I was so inspired by the young people, the young women I worked with back in 99-2000. I saw this working and I thought, you know, I wanted to come back to New York City, I’m originally from New York City. I thought if it’s possible, then why can’t it be possible in New York City. I mean, how hard could it be?

Sandi: Really?

Amanda: Famous last words, right?

Sandi: Mm Hmm. But we do have bodies of water.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: That’s a start.

Amanda: That’s what I figured. I thought, you know, I know how to row. I know a little bit, I know some about coaching, I’d been coaching a bit and we have bodies of water, and so how hard could it be? It was much harder than I thought it would be. Mostly because there was no infrastructure here in New York City for a rowing program much less an outreach rowing program. Unlike a city like Boston or Philadelphia, where there’re already thriving rowing organizations and clubs where we could just sort of insert ourselves within an already established club.

Sandi: Because there are crew teams in all these schools and they practice on the Charles River for example.

Amanda: Right. Right. So, you could go in and say, listen, I want to add a new piece to what you’re already offering.

Sandi: Right.

Amanda: You already have a boathouse, you have boats, you have launches and engines and coaches and equipment and insurance. Let me just put myself in here with this small program. So, it was really the opposite of that because there was on infrastructure. It was, where do we start? To answer your question, we were living in the East Village at the time and I just bought a huge piece of poster board and just started writing down. What are all the things you need to do? We need to incorporate. We need to become an organization. I didn’t know how to do that, but I knew it needed to be done. We needed to get non-profit status from the IRS. Didn’t know to do that, just know it needed to be done, or knew it needed to be done. Needed to raise money, didn’t know how to do that, but I knew we’d need money.  I literally went out and bought one of those books, Fundraising for Dummies. [Laughing]

Sandi: Uh Huh

Amanda: Which I have since taken off my shelf in my office because, I just, you know, that’s a little embarrassing.

Sandi: Well, you’re secret’s safe with me.

Amanda: Thank you. Just sort of wrote this long list. Oh. Find somewhere to row that was an important piece too.

Sandi: I have to interrupt and ask.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sandi: It’s great to have a poster board and start writing these things.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sandi: It’s wonderful to have a significant other supporting you.

Amanda: Mm Hmm

Sandi: Maybe I’m speaking for a lot of other women with great ideas, but just who feel so overwhelmed by the task at hand. You’ve got a fabulous idea, and how do you sell it to me, or to the next person?  Were you prepared to put in some of your own money?

Amanda: I guess it’s a two part question, two part answer. Yes, I had saved I think about $5000 from my lucrative, you know, not lucrative teaching job. I had sort of stashed that away and decided well then I could live for a couple months. When you’re young and you don’t have kids or a mortgage or anything.

Sandi: Sure.

Amanda: It’s, you’re like, oh, we’ll make some more pasta.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Amanda: I decided that I would give myself, grant myself that time to live off of that money and try to make this work. If it didn’t, then it didn’t, but I was going to try to start this organization. It’s sort of like stepping off a cliff a little bit. When you establish, I’m going to try to do this and you sort of make that public. Not public, public, but with your family and friends.

Sandi: They were supportive as well?

Amanda: Oh, yeah. They, oh, it’s a great idea. I still have notes from people from eleven, twelve years ago, from friends and family saying you can do this and words of encouragement. It was a real risk. It felt like a real risk to take, professionally and personally. If you announce you’re going to try to do something, it becomes this public effort. You put yourself out there to maybe not be successful. In terms of, I think you had asked sort of how do you do this, how do you take this risk. I think you either, you do or you don’t, right.

Sandi: Right.

Amanda; I did.

Sandi: So, you said, I should incorporate or I’m a non-profit, or whatever, all those little details. Then, first of all, you said you had no place to call home in terms of this project. How did you convince people? I mean, I don’t need every single step.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: But how did this fly?

Amanda: That was the funny part, was convincing people because I would sit and I would get meetings with people. I’m trying to even think of how I, I would just go to anything that had anything to do with rowing, no there was no rowing, so on water activities.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: I picked up the phone and called rowers in New York City, who were maybe ten yours older than I was and established in New York City, and pitched this idea to them, and they would introduce me to more people. It was sort of like, fake it till you make a little bit.

Sandi: Huh

Amanda: In a meeting, when I would finally get meetings with them, I would talk with, or try to talk with confidence about this idea that I had. It’s going to be very successful and I really believe in it, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, Oh God, I’m not actually sure that this is going to work.

Sandi: It’s almost like play acting almost.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. This is going to be great and I know it’s going to work. I wouldn’t call it lying, but in the back of my mind, I remember thinking, feeling like dread.

Sandi: Was the turning point that your former coach gave you your first boats? What was the biggest push forward?

Amanda: No, that was almost more frightening. It’ kind of hard to describe. When people actually start to believe in the idea and they give you a little bit of something, like a boat or a grant for $10,000, it was one of our first grants, it’s almost more, it’s exciting but it’s also frightening because then you think, wow I actually have other people

Sandi: To produce.

Amanda: Exactly. I have other people invested in this idea now. I can’t just tuck it back, oh, just kidding, I’m not really doing this. People, if people are investing in this idea and so you really need to then do something with that. When he dropped off these two boats in New York City, it was almost, it was great, but it was also sort of frightening then. Wow. Now we have to.

Sandi: Are you still basically doing this by yourself? Collecting the money, pitching the idea?

Amanda: Oh. No, no. Not at all.

Sandi: No, then.

Amanda: Oh! Then! Sorry, sorry, sorry. Then. Oh, Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yes. It was me. [Laughing]

Sandi: So move ahead. You get the $10,000. You get these two boats. How do you determine where you’re going to store them and where this project is going to be located?

Amanda: My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, has always been an amazing life partner. He was totally onboard with the idea. In fact, he’s the one who really pushed and pushed and pushed and said you absolutely should do this. There’s a little bit of a story there in that he’s the one; when we first moved to New York City and I was, had the idea of Row New York in my mind, but I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do because I thought this is going to be hard. We don’t have any money, personally. There’s no money for this idea. There’s no seed funding for this and I want to work at this organization, I don’t necessarily want to start it and run it.

Sandi: I understand. Mm Hmm

Amanda: It was him, he said, that’s sometimes the problem with women.

Sandi: Hmm

Amanda: Of course I got very defensive, what are you talking about?

Sandi: Yeah. What are you talking about?

Amanda: Jerk.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Amanda; But, he said, men have this arrogance and this confidence that women don’t have and you should have more of it, you should want to do this.  But I don’t want to this, was sort of this very personal back and forth. He said, no, women are so much more capable. I’m trying, I want to describe this correctly. He was really just talking about how men don’t have, and of course this is a generalization, but in his thought process he was saying, Listen, men plow forward with ideas and this confidence and this arrogance. Sometimes that’s a good thing; sometimes it’s not.

Sandi: Right

Amanda: But sometimes it’s a good thing, and women too often hold back. Oh it’s too hard, I won’t be able to do it.

Sandi: I’ll fail.

Amanda: Yeah. I’ll fail, this won’t work, I don’t know how to do these things. He said, you know, that’s the problem. You should say I can do this and I want to do this and I’ll figure it out.

Sandi: I think we’re so worried that we’re going to make a mess.

Amanda: Yeah. It’s not going to work and so it’s better to just say, well, no, it’s ok, I’m not going to do this.

Sandi: Mm

Amanda: So I got a little bit angry and sometimes that’s a good thing, and in my own head and I decided, screw that, and I am going to do this. I’m so glad that we had that conversation looking back, because I think it really ended up being good encouragement for me.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: To say, you know, he’s a little bit right in my opinion and I’m going to do this.

Sandi: And he turned out to be a lot of bit right.

Amanda: Yeah, he did. He did. I’ll give him that.

Sandi: Yeah, that’s alright. Yeah. Throw him that bone.

Amanda: I will. He went with me. So, I said, okay so this weekend we’re going to drive around New York City and we’re going to look at every body of water that we can and try to figure out where to row. It was after many hours of driving around, probably over a course of a couple of days, that we ended up at Meadow Lake in Queens and decided that this was a great spot because it’s somewhat protected. It’s not being out exposed on the Hudson River. It’s certainly in a community that could use access to unique sports or activities and lots of schools around it. There was actually a building, sort of a boathouse, from the World’s Fair that was located right next to the lake, so I was thinking, this is perfect. This could be perfect. We’ll clean this building out and this could be our boathouse.

Sandi: What’d you do, rent the building eventually?

Amanda: No. We, I approached the Parks department and said, listen, I want to take kids who can’t swim in the narrow boats out on the park’s lake and teach them to row. Somehow, they said yes.

Sandi: Wow

Amanda: Which was a big, that was cause for a bottle of champagne, getting that permission from the parks department. To me, I think it was a big ask.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: In terms of liability and exposure. That was huge, that they said yeah, you can use this run down old building. It’s filled with garbage. They even said yes when I said, well do you think you could give us some dumpsters and we’ll fill them up because it was filled with car parts and squirrels and squirrel families. That was a process too and getting friends to come and help load dumpsters on weekends. There were just a lot of hurdles is the best way to describe it.

Sandi: So, you’ve not a place now.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi; We don’t have to go every step of the way, but from the time that you’re husband really pushed you till the time that you cleaned out that building,

Amanda: Yeah.

Sandi: Was about how long, would you say?

Amanda: About a year.

Sandi; A year. So it took a year for you to get your first boat on the water?

Amanda: Yeah. I would say, I would say so. That year included also trying to get people aboard, build a board and apply for non-profit status with the IRS, and start to create materials that I could share with potential funders.

Sandi: You’re running from pillar to post, it’s just…

Amanda: Right, right.

Sandi: As you were doing all of this,

Amanda: I cried a lot. [Laughing]

Sandi: Okay. But you’re also getting good feedback because things are happening at a positive level. Were you also, no pun intended, buoyed by this?

Amanda: There were not a ton of positive moments to be honest. Getting permission to use the boathouse, as an example, was a positive moment.

Sandi: That’s big.

Amanda: That was big. I think there were more negative moments. That it took two months to get the key.

Sandi: Mm

Amanda: The actual key from the parks department.

Sandi: Well, that’s the government.

Amanda: Right. To get into the actual building. The lot of rejection from foundations. I’m just thinking, this is so ridiculous, this idea’s ridiculous. This is impossible. Where we have to get to from here is just, seemed very impossible at times. It was very slow going, it was a big lift and slow going for that year.

Sandi: So when that year was over, you had eight girls?

Amanda: Uh Huh.

Sandi: Two boats?

Amanda: Uh Huh.

Sandi: I feel like saying and a partridge in a pear tree.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: Did you have coaches, mentors, I mean, how many staff were there at that point? Whether they were paid or not, but how many people besides you and your boyfriend were involved?

Amanda: Right. He had a job, keep in mind.

Sandi: I get that.

Amanda: So, he couldn’t come out and coach. Luckily, I don’t know how she found us, but a wonderful woman, young woman named Emily [00:15:42], she had rowed in college and she, we got connected somehow and she said I want to help you run this pilot program for the summer. That was the summer of 2002, and I said, yeah that would be amazing. So, she came out for that whole four or five weeks that we did this pilot program and slogged through with me. I will forever be grateful for her help with that. We’re still in touch to this day, but besides Emily, that was it. It was just us.

Sandi: It was eight girls from Queens?

Amanda: Mm Hmm

Sandi: You found by going to the schools?

Amanda: No, so it was during the summer,

Sandi: Kidnapping… [Laughing]

Amanda: Right. You want to come row…

Sandi: Right.

Amanda: No, so we went to the YMCA in Flushing and asked them, you know, we have this pilot, do you have some girls that might be interested? They said, not from the Y, but we have this Beacon Center which is like four miles from here. I was living in the East Village and our car was parked on the, along the West Side Highway, for some reason. I’ve kind of blocked all of this out, but I remember, there’s no great train, as I’m sure you know, from the East Village to the West Side.

Sandi: West Side. Mm Hmm

Amanda: I would jog over and get the car, and then I would drive to the Upper East Side from downtown to pick Emily up because I said, the least I can do, since you’re volunteering, is pick you up. Then we would go across to Queens and we would park my car at the YMCA and take the van that they let us use; I can’t believe that they even let us use that van, thinking back, and then we would drive to White Stone to the Beacon Center and pick the girls up. That was like two hours and fifteen minutes in.

Sandi: Oh my goodness.

Amanda: Then we would drive to the boathouse and run the Learn to Row session with these girls, and then do everything in reverse.

Sandi: This was every day?

Amanda: Yea, Monday through Friday for like four or five weeks. It was about five hours of commuting.

Sandi: And these were girls who didn’t know what they were getting into.

Amanda: No idea. No idea.

Sandi: And when the summer was over you had, just like you, eight converts, right?

Amanda: No. I wish,  you know what, I wish I could say yes, if you want me to.

Sandi: No.

Amanda: The honest answer, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth, the honest answer is, the pilot program was not amazing. It was hot.

Sandi: Huh

Amanda: It was unbelievably hot. We would hose the girls off at the end of the row because it’s just this blazing sun in the middle of the day because by the time we got to the boathouse it was like ten-thirty. I think that they liked me and they liked Emily and they enjoyed the experience a little bit, but the boats that we had were four person rowing shells, so they’re very, they’re definitely not ideal for novices. It’s the type of boat you row once you

Sandi: Are more experienced?

Amanda: Exactly.  Are more experienced. I think some of them were scared, it was hot, it wasn’t good. It was not good. I would come home sunburnt and exhausted every day and just say, this is basically a disaster. Like, there were still like squirrels everywhere, it’s really hot.

Sandi: Probably laughing at you. [Laughing]

Amanda: Probably. I’m like, this is terrible.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Amanda: It was not good. What was good, we took some pictures of the summer program, we got some quotes from the girls, I was able to go back to funders that fall and say, you know, all sunburnt and exhausted and even more broke and say listen, we’re doing it and its going. Look we have boats, we have; I think people respected the fact that I wasn’t throwing the towel in and saying this is ridiculous. Like, I’m going to go to law school now or something.

Sandi: Right.

Amanda: I know that good came out of it, but I would not say that the girls from that program were converts. I think they were like, that was really hot.

Sandi: So, eight became what the next year?

Amanda: So then, the next, that next spring we started the full program. The full afterschool competitive program with about fifteen girls. That grew to thirty within in the next year, then to sixty to eighty. We stayed at sixty to eighty for a few years.

Sandi: For, this was just the summer program?

Amanda: No, no, no. Sorry.

Sandi: This was year round.

Amanda: This was year round, after school, Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings, as well as the academic program.

Sandi: And these were girls who just were from neighborhoods where this would just never be an option.

Amanda: Right. Exactly. So, we target schools in under resourced communities that really serve students, who, like you said exactly Sandi, wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity. Once we partner with these schools, we know we’re getting the students we would like to serve, our target students.

Sandi: So, after you sort of had to kidnap these girls.

Amanda: Yeah, pretty much.

Sandi: At some point, word got out and you didn’t have to recruit as it were, or convince.

Amanda: I think we will always have to recruit. The difference is now, so that the joke is still, and I’m still very close with these, the girls who started in the full program in 2003, who are now young women really with jobs and they’re college graduates. I still think of them as fifteen. They always laugh at me. Amanda, I’m twenty-five, I’ve got engaged. No, no, you’re fifteen.

Sandi: Right. I don’t have a curfew.

Amanda: Yeah, you’re fifteen, you have to go home.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Amanda: Once we got those girls, the funny thing is we had “tryouts” and we actually decided we should have two days of tryouts in just in case we have too many girls showing up, we’ll spread them out across two days. We had five girls the first day and three girls the next day. The joke is, of course, they all made the team.

Sandi: [Laughing] Right.

Amanda: They were so excited. I was so excited when I learned I made the team and I’d been chosen. I think they all know now, I mean the truth is out now, many years later that if you had a pulse, you were a part of Row New York.

Sandi: And who cares?

Amanda: Yeah.

Sandi: It doesn’t matter at all.

Amanda: They were phenomenal. They were wonderful.

Sandi: I just think that part of it is so amazing that you went from tears and defeatism because it could also have not flown. Success stories are wonderful, but there are a lot of failure stories.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: Not for a lack of trying.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: I watched some videos of testimonials from these young women and it really makes, it gives you pause.

Amanda: Yeah. It does.

Sandi: There are no stars in rowing. Everybody has to pull their weight. You lag behind, you screw everybody up in the boat. What a wonderful lesson to teach these young women.

Amanda: Mm Hmm. Mm Hmm

Sandi: That we’re all in this together.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: You screw up, you’re going to ruin it for everybody.

Amanda: Right. It’s good stuff.

Sandi: It sure is.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so easy, I mean, it’s so much of it applies to life right. Whether it’s school or family or community, so much of rowing and what you learn through the sport.

Sandi: But the other thing that I was struck by in doing more reading, is this is just not about rowing. How the hell did you get into the whole academic thing, and financial information about college? What were you taking on here?

Amanda: Yeah.

Sandi: Did you ever thing you were going to be doing that?

Amanda: Definitely. Because you know, because my background is in education. Remember I was at Harvard’s Ed school.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: When I started working with Girls Row Boston. I was very invested in that piece from the beginning, the academic side of things. Rowing is wonderful and it teaches a million great lessons and gets you ridiculously fit but if you’re failing math and you score a 320 on your verbal section of the SAT; no matter how well you’re rowing or much you learned from it, we’re still going to have some issues.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: Getting into college and being successful later on.

Sandi: Did these young women think they were going to college?

Amanda: You know, many of them do. Many of them come in saying I absolutely want to go to college, but many don’t feel that way when they start with us. Some feel, some make this leap from I want to go to college but I’ll stay here in New York City to well I want to have that experience where I’m out of school out of state or upstate.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: Where I have the full dorm experience. Realizing what opportunities are out there for them. The academic piece has always been important and one that we’ve been

Sandi: So it’s just a natural outgrowth that you were going to get involved in more aspects of these girls lives.

Amanda: When you’re a part of Row New York, just as you need to come to practice and work hard and get your blade in the water on time and with everybody else, you also need to turn in your report cards and come to academic tutoring sessions and go to the college prep sessions. It’s a package deal.

Sandi: Holy cow. So, you have all these professionals who are helping them, navigate them along that way too.

Amanda: Right. Right. We have a wonderful staff that does all of that.

Sandi: When and why did boys get involved?

Amanda: The program I worked for in Boston, Girls Row Boston was obviously a girl’s only program. I loved that model and wanted to bring it to New York City and really felt like there were few opportunities for kids from under-resourced communities, but fewer for girls. Fewer opportunities in terms, especially in terms of sports and being outdoors. So, we were very invested in the girl’s only program for nine years and it’s sort of a long story. When we were asked by New York Restoration Project, they’re the owners, that’s Bette Midler’s non-profit, and they’re the owners of the Manhattan Boat House, and they asked us in 2008, listen can you come in and take over management of the Peter J. Sharpe Boathouse and can you run all the great programs that you run in Queens. Can you run them here in Manhattan? We said absolutely. That process took a little bit of time to get in there.

Sandi: At that point, you were not necessarily thinking about expanding, you were very content to be in Queens.

Amanda: Right. We decided though, in taking over management of that boathouse, now we would be the only youth rowing organization in New York City. That we really needed to, and wanted to, we were happy to do it. To serve boys as well. It’s funny, the one question we had to, I had to present to the board of NYRP, present Row New York to them for their final approval, Bette Midler only asked me one question. She asked, so what do you know about boys? How’s that going to go? I sort of didn’t know how to answer that, but

Sandi: Well, you said, I live with one.

Amanda: I do live with one, I live with two now because we have a son.

Sandi: I’m an expert.

Amanda: Yeah. I know all about them. The boys have been wonderful. They’re sweet and they work hard, and it’s been our pleasure to serve the boys too.

Sandi: So, what’s your operating budget?

Amanda: This year, it’s about two million dollars.

Sandi: And this comes from donations and fundraising?

Amanda: About 50% comes from foundations, mostly in New York City, and about 25% comes from individual donations. Generous people, we have donors who have given gifts as large as $250,000 down to $10, and a lot of people in between.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: Then, we generate some revenue too, through adult learn to row sessions on the weekends.

Sandi: You charge people for that.

Amanda: Right.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: Exactly. Then we do corporate team building, so we have groups come out, had Golden Sacs, and BuzzFeed and other groups come out and they learn to row with us as a corporate team building experience.

Sandi: You have some pretty toney board of director members.

Amanda: We do.

Sandi: Was that difficult to do? To go to fancy white collar law firms or whatever, or were people just, once this thing got off the ground, eager to be a part of it?

Amanda: It is difficult.

Sandi: Was it a hard sell?

Amanda: It was difficult in the beginning. It’s certainly less difficult now. I remember when we used to have sight visits, which is when a funder comes to the actual boat house and sees the program, I used to want to throw up. I would be so nervous. Is everything going to go well, and ahhh, not feeling great about things. Now, I’m always so excited when people come to the boat house because it sells itself. You meet our staff, you meet our kids. You see things running smoothly.

Sandi: Everything takes place in both of those boat houses, in other words.

Amanda: Right. Right. But now, if I’m going into some, going into a law firm or a big bank and meeting with someone, I’m really not uncomfortable. I’m excited about it because I know that this works. The proof is in the pudding.

Sandi: Really?

Amanda: People get excited. People who are successful understand what success looks like and what’s involved. So, when you can sit down and say these are our numbers, these are our results. Especially when they’ve been rowers themselves, at Princeton or Yale or Harvard and they realize, you’re preaching to the choir in terms of talking about rowing and how much the sport has to offer. It’s not a hard sell.

Sandi: So throw some more numbers out at me. How many people have participated in this program since its inception?

Amanda: Oh. We’ve had thousands go through our many different programs. Our core program, middle schoolers and high schoolers, that’s six days a week; we have 220 kids on the water every afternoon. Those are our core kids. We know all of those kids and their families.

Sandi: But that’s not, you don’t do that in December?

Amanda: We’re not on the water in December, but we’re with them in December. They’re in our indoor space doing,

Sandi: Terrific

Amanda: Rowing on the rowing machines, we do swim lessons, we’re doing academics, we don’t say see you in March. We train throughout the winter.

Sandi: Terrific.

Amanda: We also do school day adaptive rowing for kids with disabilities and then we do summer camps, we partner with other youth serving organizations. We hire our oldest kids to help as counselors or as coaches.

Sandi: Wonderful

Amanda: They get work experience

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: And some money, and then we have hundreds of kids come through these camps during the summer. We also work in certain middle schools with high rates of obesity that usually don’t have gyms. We’ll bring the rowing machines in and run their PE classes in the winter time. We’ll do a unit for them. We also work in a juvenile detention center where we’ll bring rowing machines in and run their PE class as well.

Sandi: Look. Amanda, this just begs the question, did you ever in a million years think that you would be spitting all this information out today?

Amanda: I don’t think so. No. I was not very confident going into all of this. Definitely not. To be honest. I wish I could say yes, I knew this would work and this would be great and it would be; no I was not that, that’s not how I thought. I am very, I think I’m very stubborn in some ways and my mom, (I think I have to talk about my mom) my mom, very early on said this is the perfect thing for you to be doing Amanda, because you are so driven and so stubborn if you really want to make this. Maybe stubborn isn’t the right word, but if you really,

Sandi: Determined?

Amanda: Yeah. I mean, if you really want this to happen, I’m very good at putting my blinders on and not being deterred too easily.

Sandi: I hope you’re really proud of yourself.

Amanda: Oh.

Sandi: And you should be, for spawning this amazing organization. Has anybody called you up to start a Row Charleston, or a Row Maryland or whatever?

Amanda: Yes. Yes. People do ask a lot and that is something we’re thinking about a lot, how can you scale this idea, can you

Sandi: Franchise it almost, in a way.

Amanda: Yeah. It’s a tricky question. Because I think they’re a lot of things that we do that are very straight forward in terms of how to make a successful program and then I think there’s some nuance pieces that I think you really need to be hands on with.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Amanda: Our staff, the things that make our staff really special are sort of nuanced. It’s hard to describe.

Sandi: I just think what you do is so admirable, so wonderful.

Amanda: Well, thank you.

Sandi: It was truly my pleasure to talk with you today. I don’t know that you’re necessarily going to see me at one of your boathouses.

Amanda: Yeah. I was going to say, you should come out.

Sandi: Rowing, I’m kind of, well, I’m athletic, but I’m a bit of a whiner, I don’t know if I could pull my weight.

Amanda: [Laughing]

Sandi: But I certainly applaud the efforts. I think it’s just a fabulous organization.

Amanda: Thank you so much.

 

Sandi: Join us again for another edition of the 51% Conversations with Creative Women. If you want to reach the 51%, contact us at advertisingat51%conversations.com. I’m Sandi Klein.

Narrator: Thanks for listening to The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. For show comments and suggestions please follow us on Twitter at #sandikleinshow. You can also find us on Facebook at The 51% Conversations. The show is produced and recorded by Chad Dougatz at the Hangar Studios in New York City. Sandy Klein is our executive producer.

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