two volunteer swim instructors posing on outdoor pool deck

Jojo Conklin and Valentina Rivera are active volunteers with the Spurlino Family YMCA swim program. 

By Adrianna Hagel

This article was written by Adrianna Hagel, a full-time USF student and swim instructor at the Spurlino Family YMCA.

Jojo Conklin and Valentina Rivera have been volunteering every week at the Spurlino Family YMCA on Big Bend Road in Riverview. With the developmental swim program growing substantially, coaches Adrianna Hagel and Kelvin Street have appreciated the extra help. 

Conklin, 13, has been swimming with the developmental swim program for three years. She attends LLT Academy South Bay with a 3.7 GPA. Conklin stepped up to the plate after one of her closest friends from the swim team was promoted to the competitive program. Conklin asked if she could start assisting the coaches by helping some of the new athletes on the team. 

“I just love to help. Helping the team makes me really happy, especially when I get to be a part of their progress,” said Conklin. 

Hagel has coached Conklin since the beginning of the program. “Jojo is the perfect example of team spirit. She has a positive way of uplifting her teammates, while still being light-hearted and pokes fun every now and then,” Hagel said.

Rivera has been swimming since she was five years old. Today, she attends Newsome High School where she holds a 3.7 GPA and 200 hours of community service as part of her role in the school's Key Club. “Swim team has helped me focus better at school and overall. I usually think very fast-paced, but swimming helps me slow down,” said Rivera. 

Hagel was impressed after observing Rivera’s swimming performance and asked if she would be interested in mentoring for the swim team. Rivera was happy to help and since then has been coming every week. “It's outstanding how responsible these girls are. They are great examples for the team of balancing work and school. I feel lucky to have such a great team,” said Hagel.

The aquatics staff has appreciated the help from these two young teens at the Y. “I have witnessed exceptional leadership and enthusiasm from both Jojo and Valentina. Their positive attitudes and responsibility are one of a kind in this generation,” said head lifeguard Alexa Maldonado.

The Aquatics Director, Matthew Grenagle, pointed out that Conklin and Rivera are great candidates to join the aquatics team. “Both of these individuals have been in our program here at the Y and have seen how the program works and want to keep other swimmers coming back again and again. If all we did was swim, our team would get bored,” Grenagle said. “If they bring fun and excitement with the Y core values, they could be valuable members of our swim team.”

Conklin and Rivera plan to continue volunteering, and in time, possibly work for the YMCA with the developmental swim program. The student athletes have shown great hard work and responsibility to other students and staff. The aquatics team is thrilled to be a part of their great success.