"In Africa, all I played was soccer and basketball, so it's like, OK, rowing, cool," said Nana Kusiappiah of Weschester High School.
Liz Greenberger, founding director of RowLA, says their summer camps teach girls to row. Then there is a pre-season tryout in August.
"If you survive, and you really are committed, then you'll be on the team that starts Labor Day for the full academic year," Greenberger said.
The 16 girls that succeed will have a busy year, perfecting their rowing skills at Mother's Beach two hours daily Tuesday through Friday and training for regattas on Saturday. There's also nutrition counseling, physical conditioning and studies.
While these girls are given a chance to learn a skill, get in shape and have some fun, there are also some requirements they must meet to stay in the program: They must have a B- average or higher.
"As soon as a girl hits the C area, there's more intense academic work, and you can't get in the boat," Greenberger said.
There's two-and-half hours of academic tutoring Mondays, plus homework and college testing prep weekly.
"We cannot tell college coaches that they can row for your team if they can't survive your academics at your college and university," Greenberger said.
Girls in eighth to 11th grade of color and financial need are eligible to participate with a goal of obtaining Title IX scholarships.
One girl who rowed with RowLA for two years just graduated from King Drew Medical Magnet, Greenberger said, and she received offers from four top universities. She chose to go to Smith College in Northampton, Mass.For more information, visit http://rowla.org/.