Rita Keefer: Heading to College, with a Scholarship to Row

We celebrate whenever one of our students accomplishes a goal, and it’s time to celebrate Rita Keefer, a current senior who recently learned she has been accepted to Drexel University with a scholarship for rowing. Way to go, Rita!

An Orangevale resident, Rita has rowed since sophomore year. She has been a Sacramento Waldorf School student since the age of 5, when she started Kindergarten on our campus. 

Rita has played on our school sports teams since sixth grade – volleyball and then basketball, until she discovered her love for rowing. She rows for Capital Crew on Lake Natoma, out of Sac State’s boathouse.

Rowing in eights mostly, and sometimes racing in a 4 or a pair, Rita rows starboard, mostly sitting in 5 seat or 3 seat toward the bow of the boat.

“I like the team feeling,” Rita says. “When everyone is connected, it feels really nice. It’s relaxing and it’s a nice way to focus and forget about the rest of your day. The lake is beautiful, rowing toward the sunset.”

Rita enjoyed rowing as a sport and a team setting so much that she started wondering whether she might be able to continue the sport in college. At the end of junior year, she began emailing schools as a possible recruit. Last summer, she spent time talking with coaches and went on an official visit to Drexel University in Philadelphia. They offered her a 50% scholarship if she would attend and join their crew team.

Rowing is not the only reason Rita chose Drexel. “They have this really cool culinary program that I am excited to be in,” she says. “I want to be a chef. It’s a really cool program, so I was really excited about that part of it.”

Plus, the team was welcoming and friendly, and Rita is excited to be part of the famed Boathouse Row, a gorgeous stretch of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia where universities and high schools have rowing boathouses in a long row on the river bend. At night, the boathouses light up for a spectacular scene.

Considering the rich history of Philadelphia as well, Rita says, “I think it will be a great experience to train there for four years. We could see Boathouse Row from the dorm, and it was really pretty and it had such a cool feeling to it.”

Practically speaking, Rita looks forward to immersing in Drexel’s culinary program, after cooking for her brothers and her mother at home. Sometimes, she cooks for neighbors, and makes food for friends. She often brings treats to regattas for her teammates to enjoy. “It’s a different way to express myself,” she says.

Rita has loved her years at Sacramento Waldorf School. “There are kids in my class that I’ve been in school with since Kindergarten,” she reminisces. “It’s really cool to grow up with so many people that I still know from kindergarten, be friends with them, see everyone change. It’s a really cool experience.”

Her years on our campus have “prepared me in the way that you have a lot more life experience and it’s not just academics. We focus on so many other things – like it’s cool that we have a garden program, where you can learn about plants and the earth. It’s very real. There’s a lot based on community, real human experiences.”

While Rita is admittedly nervous to move across the country, she is ready for a new experience and believes Sacramento Waldorf School has given her “a good foundation for how to interact with people. That’s something SacWaldorf is really good at – teaching you how to make relationships and keep relationships and I feel that is something I’ll be able to do well.”

Being on a team at the start of college will help, she says. She’ll room with a teammate, and start on day one with a “nice foundation to have for meeting new people and having a good support system” – just like she’s had at Sacramento Waldorf School.

“Boathouse Row, Philadelphia” by DavidFlickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Her advice for younger students considering their post-high school options? “Don’t hesitate to put yourself out there,and don’t be afraid to make yourself sound as good as you possibly can,” Rita says. “Know what you’re good at, make that as known as possible, try not to be self-conscious or shy. A coach is going to want to take a confident person over a quiet, shy person, which I am, so it was a good lesson to learn. A lot of the recruiting process is phone calls with coaches, so you want to make yourself as strong as possible. It’s their first impression of you. I’ve become a better person because of that.”

Rita says her strong relationships with Sacramento Waldorf School teachers prepared her to engage with coaches and build new relationships with adults. “I feel comfortable communicating with adults, I can talk at their level, and that comes from learning how to make good relationships with your teachers,” she says.

“At Sacramento Waldorf School,  you’re really encouraged to make strong relationships and connections with adults, even if it’s out of your comfort zone,” Rita says. “Since Kindergarten, you shake your teacher’s hand every morning, which is the beginning of this long journey toward being comfortable in any setting, with new people.”