In 9 th grade, my first year of high school, I was having a hard time.
During class people would ball up pieces of paper and throw them at me. I was called a nerd and a freak, and in between classes I would try to avoid making eye contact with anyone and everyone. I spent more than one lunch eating alone in the bathroom (or even worse, hiding in the library and not eating lunch at all). Things got better as high school went on, but by the start of college I was still convinced that there was something undeniably wrong with me, that I would never make friends at college, and that I was, as my high school peers consistently reminded me, a freak.
And then, I joined Tribe Swimming. And all of a sudden, the exact same quirks that I
hated about myself in high school were now celebrated. It seemed like almost overnight I went from being terrified of making friends to suddenly having 60+ people that would do anything for me, and that I would do anything to help. It became cool to dance on the pool deck, spend five hours at the caf after practice, have movie nights in Yates, and cheer for my teammates so loudly on a random Saturday morning practice that I lost my voice until Monday. And somewhere in the midst of four years of Adair Monday mornings and psych buddies and duel meets and Mile. Monday practices and moments when I believed in this team so much my heart felt like it was going to burst, I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be. And I was exactly who I
needed to be.
The recent program cuts are, to put it frankly, devastating and unacceptable. The impact that the swim team has goes far beyond the accolades (although, do not be mistaken, we have plenty of those). These program cuts disgust me because this team has a consistent record of creating a kind, welcoming, inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and places emphasis on family above all else. Allowing students to go through college with that type of support system allows them to then fearlessly go out into the world, upholding Tribe values while also making a sincere and honest difference in whatever they pursue. This team changes lives, and this team also saves lives. The fact that these programs were thoughtlessly cut without a sincere fight at the administrative level to save them hits my heart deep in a place that I cannot fully put
into words. And because of that, I will fight for this program until the bitter end, which is most certainly not today, and was most certainly not at the end of the Zoom call.
I am now, ironically enough, a 9th grade teacher. I am going back to a grade where I
struggled so, so much to remind my students that there is so much good in this world, and that if they hang in there, their tribe will eventually be there to welcome them with open arms.