Meet Riley-Simone. This dedicated 11 year old from Clinton, Maryland, is a 5th grade student at Maya Angelou French Immersion School and a competitive swimmer. She has been swimming competitively since she was 7 years old. At 11 years old she has more tenacity than most adults. She commits to practicing 4-5 days a week at 6 a.m. and she doesn’t take a break over the Summer, she hones her craft at the Theresa Banks local Division A Swim Club.
Swimming isn’t a diverse sport and this is something Riley has had to adjusted to along with her sister Reese (8 yrs old) who is following in her sisters footsteps as a competitive swimmer (Reese also speaks French!). The higher you get competitively in swimming the less diverse the sport gets. Once Riley and her sister leave their county for competitions, it’s very common to be the only highly melanated girls on the swim block. #blackgirlmagic
This adjustment hasn’t set Riley or her sister back at all, it has only driven them to become more dedicated to swimming. Both have assisted the Black Kids Swim Organization with presenting to young students on the importance of learning to swim at an early age to inspire other kids and help in the efforts of diversifying the sport. Not only does Riley shine in her sport but she maintains an impressive 4.0 grade point average and is active in her community as a Girl Scout, in Jack & Jill, and NSBE Engineering groups.
Riley’s college goals are to get her undergraduate degree and swim at Howard University. She has her sights set on Howard because currently it is the only HBCU with a competitive swim team. Each year Riley, Reese and their family do an annual community service project. Most recently they raised and donated over $1500 to provide 10 families in need with workstations to assist in virtual learning.
We got to ask Riley a few questions below to find out where her dedication to swimming and community service came from and what advice she has for others who want to find a passion to pursue.
Q: How did you get into swimming competitively?
A: I’ve always loved getting in the pool as a little kid. At six years old my parents put me on a local swim team and I haven’t turned back.
Q: What is your favorite thing about swimming and your least favorite thing about swimming?
A: My favorite thing about swimming is doing breaststroke. It’s my fastest stroke and I just love it. I also love that swimming is both a team and individual sport. I don’t like the cold mornings of swim practice in the winter. Oh and my least favorite stroke is doing backstroke.
Q: What advice do you have for other kids who are participating in sports or want to get into sports or other programs that aren’t very diverse?
A: I would tell people that even if the sport isn’t diverse just do it anyway because how will you ever be represented if you don’t step up and do it yourself. My parents have taught me the history of Black people and swimming. We aren’t new to the water, it’s just uncommon in America.
Q: Can you tell us about your favorite community service project you worked on?
A: My favorite community service project was giving work stations to kids in need. Every year our family does a service project together. This year we provided workstations for distance learning for kids in Prince George’s County School System in need of a place to complete their school work.
Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A: Other hobbies that I have are singing and drawing. Recently got a guitar, I am enjoying learning to play.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Maryland?
A: My favorite thing about Maryland is all the parks and ponds because I enjoy the outdoors.
Q: What is your favorite place in Maryland to go have some fun?
A: My favorite place in Maryland is Cosca Park. It’s a state park in Prince George’s County Maryland, I love the lake there.
Q: What are four things your friends would say you are really good at?
A: My friends would say good at swimming, dancing, singing and really smart in school.
Q: In addition to attending Howard for swimming, what are your plans and goals for the future?
A: My other goals are to become President of the U.S. Also a singer, I really enjoy singing.
Q: If you could meet one famous person, who would it be and why?
A: I would love to meet Beyonce, she is not only a great singer but an activist as well. I love how she uses her voice to stand up for others.
Q: What are you most thankful for?
A: I’m most thankful that I go on amazing trips with my family. My parents love to travel, it has become our favorite hobby together. I am also very grateful to be able to swim.
Q: What a has been your favorite family trip?
A: My favorite family vacation thus far has been our visit to London and Paris for Spring Break 2019.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a big sister to the amazing Reese?
A: Being a big sister is fun. You always have a best friend that listens to you! Reese is one of my favorite people. I love her so much.
If you know any Maryland kids we should meet email me at ArtDirector@JecoAnnapolis.com.