When the Team Antigua Island Girls cast off in 2018, they made history as the first black women's rowing team to cross the Atlantic in the Atlantic Challenge race. The four-woman team, from Antigua and Barbuda, recently met with Grade 4 and 5 students at Ancaster Public School. They imparted lessons learned from their training and insights gained during the 47-day journey rowing 3,000 nautical miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua.
"This course is usually done by guys and we are the first all-Black, all-female rowing team", said rower Samara Emmanuel.
Emmanuel, along with teammates Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, and Kevinia Francis touched on many aspects of character development. Students were riveted by their stories and inspired by their message of grit, teamwork and compassion.
This included how they took care of each other throughout the voyage and the necessity of co-operation while living together for more than a month in such a small space.
"It was really cool", said Grade 4 student Leah. "I learned that it takes a lot of people to do the rowing challenge and when you work together you can't be selfish and only want to do things your way".
The team also emphasized the perseverance it took to complete the rowing challenge when faced with difficult weather and rough waters. The students had the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions and explore what it means to set goals and work to achieve them.
"I learned that sometimes it's hard doing something you have never done before, but it can be really good", saidGrade 5 student Gulsum.
This lesson was particularly powerful given that the women had not rowed before entering training for the transatlantic race.
"We never rowed a day in our lives before we decided to take up this challenge", said Bell.
The timing of the team's visit, during Women's History Month, helped to deepen learning by drawing important connections to the accomplishments of women past and present and by inspiring students to take up challenges of their own.