A fall chill couldn’t stop students from across the MIT community from gathering at Kresge Oval on October 14 in support of Amphibious Achievement’s fifth annual Erg-a-thon. A total of sixteen teams ranging from FSILGs to sports teams to residence halls took to vigorous rowing machines called “ergometers” in this year’s competition, all with one goal in mind: to help high school students get the academic and physical education mentorship that will help them succeed.
Amphibious Achievement formed in spring 2011 with the goal of mentoring high school students from Boston and Cambridge in rowing, swimming, and academics. The group’s thirty-five academic mentors, swim coaches, and crew coaches meet with more than fifty “Achievers” each Sunday for five hours. “Our goal is to help them realize that. . .there are [educational] resources and opportunities out there for them to take advantage of, and we’re here to help them reach those goals,” said Eric Dahlseng ‘17, co-executive director of Amphibious Achievement.
Of course, the program has grown and changed in the past five years. “We shifted a lot from an SAT-prep focus to a love-of-learning-oriented curriculum,” explained Anita Liu ‘17, co-executive director. “So we [do] a lot of really cool math puzzlers, working on communications skills. . .sort of a diverse curriculum aimed at making sure all of our students get to understand the joy and beauty of learning that all of us MIT students share.” Amphibious Achievement is free of cost to all participating students, and MIT students who wish to mentor can apply before the start of each school year.
The yearly Erg-a-thon serves as the primary fundraiser for the group’s weekly sessions and student outreach. But what exactly is an Erg-a-thon? Participating teams meet at Kresge Oval throughout the day, with individual members take turns rowing as much as they can on their team’s erg. The day culminates in a final sprint, with teams racing—literally—to finish with the most distance. The event also includes a 1k race, in which competitors row 1k to try to beat each other’s times.
But the Erg-a-thon isn’t just a fundraiser—it’s an opportunity for some healthy competition and activity between organizations on campus. “By taking [the ergs] onto Kresge, we make rowing a more accessible feat for people who can’t just come out to the boathouse and row with us on a Sunday,” said Catherine Williamson ‘19, director of mentor relations and Erg-a-thon co-coordinator. “It’s just really fun, and there’s just a ton of energy, especially when people are cheering on their teams and getting competitive with others.”
“I love seeing everyone, all the different teams from around campus—different living groups, different sports teams, and clubs—coming together and competing against each other, but really for the same cause,” added Matt Wu ‘19, director of curriculum development.
Last year’s Erg-a-thon raised over $10,000, and teams rowed a collective 627.140 kilometers. This year, Amphibious Achievement aimed to raise $15,000—and with thirty-four total donors, they beat this goal, raising over $16,000! By the end of the day, teams had collectively rowed 873.047 kilometers (543 miles)—an event record and an excellent kickoff to another year of Achievement.
Video by Stephanie Tran, words by Isabella Dionne.
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