2005-05-06 / Sports

M.S. 53 Takes to the Flushing Bay Waves!

After a long, dreary winter, the first days of spring brought some extra sunshine to a group of 8th grade students at Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway. For the first time ever, the N.Y.C. Dept. of Education is offering a training program in competitive rowing designed for middle school students in Region 5, in collaboration with “Row New York,” an independent organization whose participants have earned gold medals and received scholarships to colleges and universities.

Building on the success of Row New York’s high school program, Region 5 Director of Fitness and Physical Education Kathleen Walker selected only two middle schools for the program launch: M.S. 53 and M.S. 180, both in the Rockaways.

At M.S. 53, Assistant Principals Eula Thompson and Diane Ludvigsen knew they had to move fast. With less than two weeks until the April 11th start date, the APs selected 8th Grade Dean Chelle Feldman to coach the team, and she quickly set about recruiting a group of 10 eighth grade girls. “I’ve known most of these students since they started here as sixth graders, and that’s a definite advantage,” said the energetic Ms. Feldman.

“I have a pretty good idea which kids would benefit from the experience and might be interested in pursuing it in High School. They can all learn important lessons about individual excellence and teamwork right now, and if they stick with it, some could even win athletic scholarships to college.”

Dean Feldman’s enthusiasm has become highly contagious at M.S. 53, judging by students’ responses. “Each participant had to bring in two permission slips to get on the team. It was first-come, first-served, and we’ve had a waiting list since day one.”

Rebecca and Chelsea, two collegiate rowers from Row New York who go by the “crew” names ‘Ralph’ and ‘Nelson’ conduct the training at Flushing Meadow Park. Region 5 coordinator Kathy Walker provided sweatshirts with school logos and arranged for buses to and from Meadow Lake for the weekly training, while Dean Feldman keeps her girls psyched up. “They’re really excited about this program, and look forward to every training session. They’re proud to represent their school, and they get to interact with teammates from M.S. 180.”

So what gave Dean Feldman such a knack for spotting likely recruits for the rowing team? “Twenty five years of teaching Physical Education here at M.S. 53 before becoming Dean. A few of the girls were surprised,” she laughed, “but their parents remember!”

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