By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – For some, it’s a family. Others credit it with pushing them to be their best. Still others speak about the priceless feeling of peace the sport allows. Whatever it is, being a part of the San Miguel Academy Rowing Team is a positive, life changing experience.
On Sunday, October 16, 2022, being a rowing member became even more special, as junior high school members, were invited onto the Giants Met Life Stadium Field in East Rutherford, New Jersey, during a timeout and presented with the “Local Latino Achievement Award.” Ann Mara Cacase, clad in a special San Miguel Giants jersey and representing the Mara Family and Giants Organization, did the honors as she handed their coaches-administrators a $25,000 check.
The City of Newburgh based Academy is one of the largest Hispanic rowing programs in the country and carries a long list of accomplishments revealing their talent, dedication and hard work. Established in 2010 with a small group of boy rowers using borrowed equipment and hand-me-down boats, the highly successful program now includes over 40 male and female rowers who train year-round on Ergometers and on the Hudson River when weather allows. Among the biggest middle school rowing programs in the country as well as the largest minority one, the San Miguel rowers have flourished both inside and outside of the classroom from their athletic water experience.
“I enjoy rowing because of how hard they push me and the experience of being on the water as well as how we all come together with teamwork,” said second year rower, seventh grader, Ricardo Gunera about his involvement.
Another seventh grader, and first year rower, Isabella Luna, explained still further benefits.
“I joined rowing because I wanted to try something new,” explained Luna. “The best part is how we all encourage each other like a family.”
That proud “family” was all smiles as they stood around the 50 yard line where the Giants play their home games, and absorbed the full impact of the unforgettable experience. Part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the experience contained an extra layer of meaning.
“The Giants game was special because some schools don’t have this opportunity,” reflected Gunera. “The best part was when we were on live television; there were a lot of people there too, around 80,000.”
Luna pointed to other lifetime memories the moment contained.
“The best part was when we were sitting in the box seats with my family, and my parents told me only rich people get to do this, so I smiled,” said Luna. Also, when we first came, we saw players practicing, and they gave one of the kids a pair of gloves.”
And what about the reaction- meaning of that $25,000 check that is hoped to be applied to expanding the school’s rowing program- including its equipment, boats, and members- allowing for more opportunities?
“The New York Giants Organization has always stood for integrity and hard work, and our rowers are especially proud the Giants have singled them out for Latino Achievement,” said Father Mark Connell, Executive Director and Rowing Coach. “Our rowers work hard six days a week, both in the classroom and in the boat, and we are grateful that our student-athletes have been recognized by the New York Giants and the NFL.”
Luna expressed similar sentiments about the generous monetary gift.
“This means more people will get the chance to row,” said a smiling Luna. “Then they can enjoy it the way I do.”