Miami Palmetto High School senior Jake Sanchez does most of his community service through swimming. He’s also helping save children’s lives.
“I teach young children how to swim.” he says. “I do it in the summers. I’ve been doing it for five years now.”
Sanchez volunteers at the AquaKids Fundamental Swimming program at Westminster Christian School.
“We teach kids how to swim to save their lives,” he says. “If they want to learn how to swim competitively, they have to join the club and we show them all the strokes.”
Sanchez learned to swim when he was very young, but he learned again when the people at AquaKids taught him to swim competitively. He’s been swimming for competitions for approximately eight years.
Because of his personality and ability to teach, he’s usually placed with five and six-year-olds.
“They are usually the hardest,” he says. “They have strength to use if they don’t want to be in the water, so it’s really hard to move them around to teach them the strokes.”
But because he likes working with that age group, he’s usually able to motivate them to learn to swim.
“They mess around with me and I mess around with them,” he says.
He’s even able to work with children on the autism spectrum and coax them to learn how to swim.
“The program is ten weeks. I usually teach six weeks and four hours every day of the week,” he says.
Through his years at Palmetto, Sanchez swam for his school team. He swam the 100 and 200 breaststroke. He’s been the team captain for two years.
“This past season we won first at districts and second at regionals,” he says. “We got sixth or seventh at states.”
He also swims competitively with AquaKids. He’s been on a planned break until mid-April before going back for long course competitions.
At Palmetto, he’s the student recruitment chair of the Student Council. His committee helped organize Panther for a Day, a day when middle school students visit Palmetto to see the school and get a sense of what becoming a Panther is like.
“We hold a pep rally. We teach them about the school,” he says. “I am part of the Forensic Investigative Academy. We teach them about the school. We have the orchestra perform for them.”
They took part of the show to Southwood because the magnet school students weren’t able to visit that day.
“We went with orchestra. It wasn’t a full out pep rally,” Sanchez says. “We told them about the school and had the orchestra play. A lower key version of Panther for a Day.”
Sanchez is a member of one of the History Bowl Teams. He also competes for My Alpha Theta in the calculus category. Last year his team went to states.
Outside of school, he’s a part of Amigos for Kids.
“We package toys for underprivileged children and on one set day, we go to different locations to give out the toys,” he says. “We give them toys or what they ‘wish’ for.”
He says the best part of volunteering for the organization is when they go and drop off the toys.
“When you see the kids grab the presents and look inside the bag…” he says. “I see them smiling and giving hugs. It’s the best feeling knowing I’m giving back to them.”
Sanchez has been accepted into several colleges. He plans to major in biomedical engineering on a pre-med track.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld