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Local high school rowers learn lessons beyond the water: A mother’s perspective

Katherine's boat places at Southeast Regionals 2012

As my husband and I listened to our oldest, 17 year-old Katherine, describe the conversations between the nine girls in her boat before a big race, we realized how the sport of rowing gives Katherine life lessons beyond just going fast on the water and great physical fitness.

She also learns what you can accomplish when you work together as a team.  “You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” says Katherine, a rising Pope High School senior and varsity rower for Atlanta Junior Rowing Association (AJRA) in Roswell.  Katherine knows that she has to do everything she can to strengthen and support her team mates because that is how they win.

Imagine where kids can take those lessons beyond rowing – from job responsibilities to school to personal relationships?

Top tier universities understand that, too.  Often, if a school has a rowing team and understands the sport, they’ll take a student who rows before they’ll take a student with the same grades who doesn’t.  Top universities also often offer scholarships to rowers.  And with former teammates attending such schools as Georgia Tech, Princeton, Yale, University of Tennessee, Clemson and others, the kids easily see the rewards of strong academics so most rowers usually learn to manage their time and get good grades too.

Rowing is tough and it’s not for everyone, but you won’t know unless you try it. As a member of the varsity team, Katherine usually rows six days a week during the fall and spring seasons besides working out during off seasons. Yet when not on the water, she misses it.   Her teammates are some of her best friends.  And she still finds time for other high school clubs and activities besides taking the summer off to vacation, working as a lifeguard, and volunteering, so she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything.

It’s funny, I love rowing too.  Because regattas (rowing competitions) are usually day-long events, parents have time to socialize, eat, read and of course volunteer.  Since AJRA provides meals and snacks for rowers, my favorite volunteer job is running the regatta food tent with a team of parents and getting to know rowers, coaches and parents.  In the end, it’s like we’re all just one big family taking care of our kids.

We’re so lucky here in East Cobb because AJRA’s boathouse is only about ten minutes away on Azalea Drive in Roswell.  It’s easy to sign-up.  Just go to   Fall season for Novice and Varsity rowers begins in August for high school freshmen through senior.  No experience is necessary for Novice.  Coaches will teach kids all they need to know besides getting them into great physical shape.   Middle school students can learn rowing too with AJRA’s developmental programs.  With AJRA’s fall racing season, I don’t know of a better way to enjoy a beautiful fall in Georgia!

(Written by East Cobber, Barbara Cheng.)

The Joys of Volunteering at Your School


Barbara Cheng, is pictured with her children: Katherine, 17; Claire,10; and, Christian,13; along with her husband, Ed.

As a stay-at-home mom with three children, and who also held a job for many years, sometimes it’s nice to change out of sweats and go into “the office.” And here in East Cobb, I can do that when I volunteer in my children’s schools’ front offices.
When we moved to East Cobb two and a half years ago from California, with no friends or family here, I needed to quickly meet other parents and to develop friendships. Volunteering at the front desk or “Welcome Desk” was the perfect opportunity.

Since I usually work with another parent and school staff, we develop ongoing relationships compared to when you volunteer only a few times a year. In over two years, I’ve shared joys of children graduating and going to great universities,
sorrows like the death of a parent, recipes such as Terri’s marinade, and even cross country driving tips with other Californians living here.

Shifts are easy, usually only twice a month from two to four hours, so I still get the laundry done and plenty of time to
walk the dog. With three different schools, my hours average about 17 hours a month – two 4 hour shifts at the high school,
two 2 ½ hour shifts at the middle school, and about four hours at our elementary school where I fill in shifts.

If schedules permit, working parents can volunteer too. Your shifts are the same each month and you can usually calendar
them at the beginning of the year. Plus, coordinators send out monthly schedules. Responsibilities vary between schools, but for the most part it’s easy and someone trains you. Plus staff is happy to answer questions. We do everything from welcome school visitors, check in and out students, answer phones, file parent notes, help teachers and staff with projects, sort mail, and just try to make our school a warm and welcoming place for all involved.

It’s nice for your student to see you at school too. Believe me, once you’ve worked in the high school attendance office, your student is rarely late and neither are his or her friends. As a parent, it makes life a lot easier understanding school rules and
routines too. So if your schedule permits, this is time well spent. Even in the middle of the year, often there are shifts open. If shifts are full, subs are welcome and it’s a good way to get a taste if you’re not sure. If your school doesn’t have a “Welcome
Desk”, talk to staff and consider starting one. Sometimes parents just aren’t aware how easy and fun this is. We moved to East Cobb because of great schools. Yet, great schools require an active engaged parent community, so I’m happy to do my part. Yes, I’m selfish. Sometimes it’s just really nice to have a break from the house and the dog doesn’t mind either.

(Written by Barbara Cheng. Reprinted from the March 2012 EAST COBBER.)