A Stroke of Altruism
Loyola senior creates swimming program for Baltimore City youth
November 10, 2015
As an elementary education major who serves as an education ambassador for Loyola’s chapter of Urban Needs in Teacher Education, Cara Egan, ’16, is dedicated to making a difference as an educator in an urban setting.
As a Division I student-athlete on the Greyhounds women’s swimming and diving team, she is committed to making a difference in the lives of young children through a drowning prevention program she founded last spring called Junior H2Ounds.
“Honestly, half the battle of preventing drowning is awareness of the water and the realization that swimming is harder than it looks,” Egan explained.
That’s why she and her teammates focus mainly on teaching the children, primarily ages 6-10, how to keep their heads above the water and not to be afraid.
The senior from Norwalk, Conn., said her grandfather’s experiences as a swim instructor inspired her to create Junior H2Ounds.
“My Papa always shared his stories about teaching kids how to swim,” she said. “After hearing about drowning after drowning, because children were trying to swim when they did not know how, I wanted to do something to prevent it from happening again—even if that meant only impacting a few lives at a time.”
During her team’s annual retreat, Egan learned that the Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., special assistant to the president for mission integration, shared a similar goal. Just hours after the retreat, Egan sent Fr. Brown an email to ask if he would help her start a program, and it all came together.
In its first two years, Junior H2Ounds has paired volunteers from Loyola’s swimming and diving team with more than two dozen children from a drowning prevention program in Govans, just east of Loyola’s Evergreen campus.
“The goal is that each child has at least one college student with him or her consistently every week,” Egan said.
She hopes the program will continue to recruit more children and grow to eventually be offered in both the fall and spring semesters.
Egan credits the start and early success of the program to the support she received in the early stages of getting Junior H2Ounds off the ground.
“It took a year and a half to get everything operational,” she said. “There are a lot of obstacles around certifications and working with kids, especially when they are in the water.”
With the support of Fr. Brown, Brian Loeffler, ’91, head swimming and diving coach, and AmeriCorps representatives, Egan was able to overcome the challenges to create a program that benefits these children—and their instructors.
“It is beyond rewarding to see how much the kids progress over the course of the six-week program,” Egan said. “Their smiles when they are able to swim without you holding on are about all you need.”