From the moment his father introduced him to swimming at the age of 7, Julian Adame has spent much of his time in the water.
Adame, who began swimming more than a year ago in The University of Texas-Pan American's aquatics program headed by renowned swimming coach Ray Mitchell, wanted to make sure other Rio Grande Valley children had the opportunity to learn the sport he loves so much. So he raised $1,500 to pay for swimming lessons for children of UTPA students through the University's Learn to Swim classes, a component of the UTPA aquatics program.
"I saw a need down here," said Adame, a 17-year-old student at McAllen Memorial High School and Lamar Academy's International Baccalaureate program, because there are few swimming programs available for youth.
"It's a very important aspect of a person's life," he said. On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the University thanked Adame with a memento during a check presentation ceremony it held to announce the donation.
Mitchell called Adame's fundraising "incredible."
"It was a very pleasant surprise and what was really neat about the whole project was that it specifically benefitted the students here at the University because it was targeted to the students who have kids," he said. "For us to be able to offer that to students who have children was really neat."
Mitchell said he hopes the aquatics program will be able to continue to help University students and their families be able to participate in the program so that more people will learn how to swim.
"I'm thankful that Julian was able to kick start us on that," he said.
UTPA's aquatics program is composed of its Learn to Swim classes, which is the foundation of the program, a youth swim team and a masters swim club for UTPA students, faculty, staff and the Valley community.
Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said the aquatics program allows the University to reach out to the community and provide another venue for exercise and recreation for UTPA students.
Currently, there are about 90 children ages 5 to 18 in the youth swim program and about 75 students in the UTPA swim club/masters program. This is the first masters swimming program in the Rio Grande Valley, said Mitchell, director of the aquatics program.
Mitchell, who co-founded the Terrapins Swim Team in California, which has produced numerous national and Olympic trial finalists, began developing the multi-faceted program with the University about a year ago after he relocated to the Rio Grande Valley with his wife Cindy, a Valley native.
"I think it's great because it gives the kids here at the University the opportunity to engage in a fitness activity that we feel is one of the best fitness activities they can do in addition to what they have here at the Wellness Center," Mitchell said.
The aquatics program not only serves as another athletic and fitness opportunity for the University community, but also serves as another way for the University to reach out to the Edinburg and neighboring communities, he said.
It also allows the University to make better use of its indoor pool located on the east part of campus. Before, the pool was used primarily for the physical education program. Now, the pool has steady visitors from UTPA students, faculty and staff, as well as those involved in the swimming programs.
"It's packed," Mitchell said. "This has been a real good situation to try to get more people down at the pool."
The UTPA swim team already received 45 first place finishes at a competition in November. The team plans to begin competing regularly in January 2011, Mitchell said.
For more information on the aquatics program, visit its website.