Gulliver senior Namilla Sanchez has her college situation set. In November she signed with Vanderbilt to swim for their swim program. Sanchez had George Washington University and Florida Atlantic University wooing her but she chose to sign with Vanderbilt.
“I took a recruiting trip and I got involved with the team,” she says. “They are great girls and the coach is amazing.
It’s a great institution.”
Sanchez swims freestyle in the mid-distance to distance events. She also swims relays.
The Gulliver girls’ team won the state championship for the second year in a row. Individually she placed third in the 500 and ninth in the 200.
Sanchez was named to the Miami Herald All- Dade team for four years. Until she goes to college, Sanchez will continue to swim for the Gulliver Club team. She is also going to swim internationally for Argentina and if that works out she may have the opportunity to go to the Olympics.
When she goes to Vanderbilt she plans to double major in communications and film.
“I just love it,” she says. “I went to California this past summer and I went to the Warner Brothers studio and as soon as I walked in, I knew that’s where I needed to be, that’s what I have to do. I like the production part.”
Although swimming for school and swimming for the club is time consuming, Sanchez did make time to start her own non-profit dedicated to ending hunger in America.
“I noticed there are a lot of organizations that dedicate most of their time helping other countries,” she says. “I’m well aware that other countries have difficult situations but America has problems too. As an athlete, I know how important food is.”
Sanchez says she was reading an article about a drive that collected shoes for the needy in El Salvador.
“I got frustrated at reading that,” she says. “That kind of made me, not mad, but frustrated at the fact that people aren’t considerate of the opportunities America has given them.”
She started Smiling Tummies, which led to her and her friends volunteering at the Feeding South Florida warehouse.
They helped sort through the donations given by Publix and Wal Mart.
“We sort them and inspect them,” she says. “We pack them into boxes and stack them onto pallets.”
The group also participated in a mud run that allowed them to register the charity of their choice. “We registered Smiling Tummies,” she says.
“We were able to raise money from there but it’s mostly online donations.”
They also sold bracelets to raise funds. From what they’ve raised, they’ve been able to donate $500.
This year Smiling Tummies is a club at school and they made almost 800 sandwiches for the Miami Rescue Mission.
This month, they are working with a Homestead church on a food distribution event. They are collecting at school.
“Farm fresh is also donating some food for us to use as well,” she says. “We decided to do it in December, a lot of kids who rely on the backpack program at school.”
Those children are on free lunches at school and are given food to be eaten on the weekend.
She says Smiling Tummies is one of her top priorities right now.
“I’ll try to bring the organization with me to Vanderbilt. My sisters will live here, and they will be in charge but I’ll still be working with them from Tennessee,” she says. “Vanderbilt already works with some foodbanks. It’s a very community service oriented student body.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld