Tom: The inner city of Chicago has long been known as one of the most dangerous and violent neighborhoods in the country. But over the last year, experts say that violent crimes in Chicago are down, thanks to programs like one that is getting students off the streets and onto the river. Scott Evans has more.
Scott: On the south branch of the Chicago River, there is a place locals call Bubbly Creek, where you will find Montana Butsch – yep, that is his name – and a group of unlikely oarsmen from the inner city of Chicago.
Montana Butsch: Get those hands up! Get the blade in!
Scott: Montana started rowing at 15, competed in college, and sees no reason why his young friends can’t follow in his wake.
Montana: It switches a lot of kids on, and then they totally embrace it. And it’s really fun to see that happen.
Scott: Brian Behena is a coxswain, captain of the crew and navigator of the boat.
Brian Behena: I didn’t even know this sport existed really until Montana came to our school and introduced it to us. And now I’m actually glad I took the advantage of coming out here.
Scott: To enjoy it though these students have to overcome the reality of Chicago’s mean streets.
Montana: A few of our kids have been jumped by gangs or by people who they don’t like in their neighborhoods. We’ve had to deal with that on occasion. I’ve had to drive a few of our kids home after practice because they’re worried about crossing gang boundaries.
Scott: Montana, who rowed for Oxford University, started the Chicago Training Center six years ago, and has grown it into a competitive team on the city’s waterways. It has an annual budget of $300,000 raised from donations, city grants and foundation sponsorships. There is also a strict code of conduct, and the 60 crewmembers must maintain a 3.0 grade average in school. It is a lot of responsibility.
Montana: Everyone has to work together. And without that, nothing is achieved.
Scott: These are lessons for life learned one stroke at a time.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.