Powering Toward the Finish Line: Freshman Finds Empowerment Through Rowing

Veronica Castillo, who in 2012 finished her first semester as a liberal arts student, recalled her experience as high school freshman, trying out for Row New York. Row New York’s mission is to empower young people to pursue excellence in all facets of their lives.

“Afterwards my arms were sore and my chest burned,” said Veronica, who competed with 200 girls from across New York City for a spot on the team. “I was shocked that I made it.”

Practices were tough—the rowing machine was intimidating and Veronica wanted to quit. But her mother encouraged her stick with it. Eventually, Veronica progressed from an “eight” to the more advanced “four” boat as lead rower in the “engine room.” By the time Veronica graduated in June 2012 from Newtown High School, in Elmhurst, Queens, she was ranked in the top five on a team of 40 girls.

“This was a great experience. I met many people from around the area and at different colleges which helped prepare me to do well at Queensborough.”

Veronica works part-time for the academic director at Row New York as a middle school tutor. She is considering a career in education because she “loves working with kids.”

For Veronica, “rowing was wonderful,” but also challenged her endurance and ability to maintain a positive attitude. She competed in bad weather, tipped the boat over, and placed last more than once. But in the spring 2012, Veronica won three medals—bronze, silver and gold—for 2000-meter races held in New Jersey and Long Island. She plans to train again for the spring 2013 season.

The ripple effects of Veronica’s success have inspired her younger sister, Kasandra, to join Row New York. She was quickly promoted to the “coxswain” position at the front of boat, steering, instructing her teammates to a gold medal at the 2012 Philadelphia Youth Regatta. She said to her older sister, “I’m going to catch up to you one day.”