RowLA combines rowing with academic support to empower local girls

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Alexis Aiello and Naomi Bizian are training to be competitive rowers, but not too long ago these girls had never even touched an oar.

"I don't know what rowing is. I didn't even know you rowed backwards. I didn't know that they were called oars and not paddles," Aiello said.

The girls are all middle school and high school students from low-income families in the Los Angeles area. They're getting in shape and learning about the sport of rowing, thanks to a program called RowLA.

"When you go to college, it helps you with like a full scholarship and it helps you get fit, so I like it a lot," Bizian said.

Founders of the program wanted to expose young women to the benefits of a sport often associated with the elite.

"Rowing is a wonderful total body workout, so if you're asking all of the muscles to be used in a workout, it happens in rowing," said RowLA Founding Director Liz Greenberger.

The girls are learning a lot about teamwork. They're also setting themselves on a course that could lead straight to a college scholarship.

"Many colleges, division one colleges, have as many as 20 full scholarships at each college for women who row," Greenberger said.

Sarai Hernandez is heading to UC Berkeley next year on a scholarship she was awarded thanks to her participation in rowing. She's a coxswain, the rower that serves as team leader in the boat.

"They taught me how to be a better leader and better communication skills, and I made a really great group of friends here," Hernandez said.

The girls say rowing has changed their lives.

"I'm definitely gonna row. I wanna row my whole life," Aiello said.

For more information on RowLA, visit http://rowla.org/.
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