OKLAHOMA CITY (May 2, 2022) – Oklahoma City youth will have the opportunity to hear from award-winning Black author and rower Arshay Cooper during his visit to Oklahoma City on May 6 for OpportUnity Day at the Oklahoma River.  

“When Arshay first visited Oklahoma City in February, he was so excited about the opportunities we have, he wanted to come back,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of RIVERSPORT. “On May 6 we’re inviting 500 area youth from Millwood, F.D. Moon, and Crooked Oak for a youth rally and field trip to RIVERSPORT.”  

Youth will hear from Cooper, have the opportunity to learn about rowing and paddlesports, then engage in some of RIVERSPORT’s adventure activities. The Thunder Drum line will kick off Opportunity Day by welcoming the students to the Boathouse District. City Councilwoman Nikki Nice and County Commissioner Carrie Blumert will participate in the festivities with Cooper. Local celebrity JaBee, a local hip hop performer, will be on hand to pump up the crowd and will serve pizza from his popular Eastside Pizza Kitchen. REI will also join the fun, offering kite flying, camping and giveaways. After the event, youth will have the opportunity to sign up for free RIVERSPORT summer camps. 

“Arshay is a catalyst for connecting with kids and people in the Black community,” Knopp said.  

Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Cooper was part of the country’s first all-Black high school rowing team, an experience that changed his life. His award-winning memoir, “A Most Beautiful Thing,” was adapted into a film named one of the best of 2020 by Esquire Magazine. 

RIVERSPORT and Cooper are partnering to engage Black youth in the opportunities provided by rowing.  

“RIVERSPORT’s OpportUnity initiative has been active for several years but was slowed by the pandemic,” Knopp said. “We’ve been able to engage youth from most areas of the city, but despite our efforts, we’ve struggled to connect effectively with Black youth in our community. Arshay is changing that.”  

Schools participating in the event will be invited to start rowing as part of RIVERSPORT’s Youth Rowing League and can start school-based teams. RIVERSPORT provides the equipment and coaching staff, and the teams are free for Title I schools. Youth are also invited to join RIVERSPORT Juniors Rowing, a composite team that includes youth from across the metro. Scholarships are available. 

“Arshay’s story speaks to the power of rowing to transform lives,” said Knopp. “We hope meeting him in person will inspire Oklahoma City’s Black youth to make this sport their own.” 

Often viewed as the “ultimate team sport,” rowing offers youth the opportunity to discover their strengths and build self-confidence while experiencing the support that comes from being part of a team. Being part of a rowing team also opens the door for college scholarships and adds depth to college applications. 

“Universities know that kids who have the commitment it takes to be part of a rowing team are a good bet for collegiate success,” Knopp said. 

To learn more about the rowing opportunities at RIVERSPORT or to form a team, contact Youth Rowing League Head Coach Gena Terrill, 405-552-4040, ext. 4219, or email info@riversportokc.org