Arshay Cooper, 38, was a member of the first all-Black rowing team at Manley High School on the south side of Chicago in the late 1990s. He and three of his classmates formed an unlikely team at a time when their redlined neighborhood was wracked with gang violence and drug addiction. For Cooper, the experience was life-changing. "For two hours a day, it gave you this feeling you'd never felt before. Walking out of the house, there was a lot of chaos. Then you had school, you had to be cool [and] confident. So to be in a place that's so peaceful calmed the storm in me," he told Men's Health. Though the group of rowers went their separate ways after graduating from Manley, the influence the sport had on Cooper was formative. He wrote a book titled, A Most Beautiful Thing, which has been adapted into a documentary film executive-produced by rapper Common.

Read Full Story