San Miguel Academy students receive screening of ‘A Most Beautiful Thing’ documentary

A member of America’s first all African American high school rowing team visited San Miguel Academy of Newburgh students Tuesday.

News 12 Staff

Oct 21, 2020, 12:37 AM

Updated 1,307 days ago

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A member of America’s first all African American high school rowing team visited San Miguel Academy of Newburgh students Tuesday.
Arshay Cooper is an author and motivational speaker, but he never thought he’d survive his poverty-stricken neighborhood. 
He gave advice and shared wisdom with students who also face adversity and challenges in their everyday lives.
“If you truly want something, you have to go get it, or someone else will,” said Cooper.
The scholars received a screening of the documentary "A Most Beautiful Thing" - the true story of America’s first all African American high school rowing team.
The documentary tells the story of a group of young Chicago men bound together by perseverance and their love of rowing.
Cooper tells News 12 joining the crew helped to steer him from the wrong crowds and into competitions against prestigious Ivy League schools.
"I was able to think for the first time. I was able to work on my body, work on myself, my mind. Not just me, but my teammates,” says Cooper. “That's how we became a brotherhood."
His message of strength and hope touched the spirit of San Miguel student Cory Cespedes, who survived second- and third-degree burns and six skin graft surgeries.
Cespedes was accidentally shocked while painting in Mexico last June. Today, he helps to coach the school’s rowing program.
"Honestly, there were moments in the hospital when I wanted to give up, but I referred back to what I learned from rowing. I just kept pushing forward,” says Cespedes.
Students like Chris Fowler commended the film, saying in part, “It really takes you in. I just think about my past. The movie was great."
The documentary is based on Cooper’s book and was produced by NBA legends Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade.


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