I’m no stranger to swimming upstream.
Throughout my life, I’ve faced more than my fair share of challenges and difficult circumstances.
No matter what was going on in my life, though, swimming has been my constant.
Being in the water has always come naturally to me.
The classroom is another story.
Even dating back to my time in middle school, you’d never see my name on the honor roll.
Any plans to change that when I got to high school were derailed when my family lost our house due to financial hardship. My aunt graciously took us in, but my home life was everything but stable.
Needless to say, college was the furthest thing from my mind throughout the majority of high school. Frankly, I never thought I was the college type.
Not only did I prove myself wrong by earning a swimming scholarship to Oakland University, but I recently was named an Academic All-American during my fifth and final season.
I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today, but I owe so much of my success and achievements to my friends, family, and my girlfriend and her family.
They’ve been there for me through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I’m the man I am today because of them, and I’ll never forget the impact they continue to have on my life as I swim to destinations I never knew possible.
Losing our home during my freshman year wasn’t exactly how I intended to begin high school.
As I mentioned previously, I’ll be forever grateful to my aunt for taking us in, but it wasn’t an ideal living situation. Along with my mom and siblings, it was a full house.
My dad actually lived in an RV, so it was the first time we weren’t all living together as a family, and that took a toll on my mental health.
It was all so overwhelming.
I remember thinking, how am I supposed to focus on fractions or dates from history when I’m not sure where we’re going to be living long-term?
Certainly, we couldn’t stay at my aunt’s house forever.
As time went on, in what’s become a theme in my life, I was blessed by some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.
Our next-door neighbors bought the house that we lost and allowed us to move back in and pay rent. That meant we were all able to be a family living under the same roof again.
It was a blessing to be back home.
Regardless of the trials in our lives, my family was always there for me, particularly my mom.
She was actually a swimmer herself and even coached me a bit when I was younger.
So, even when things were shaky in our lives, my mom would always make sure that I still get to do what I love — swimming.
I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for everything she has done for me and my swim career. I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at today without her.
My girlfriend, Susan, deserves a very special shoutout as well.
We started dating when we were sophomores in high school. She comes from an incredibly smart, kind, and loving family.
I credit Susan and her family a lot for providing some stability in my life, and also helping me prioritize my academics.
Like I said before, I never thought my grades would ever be good enough to get into college, but they provided me with the support I needed to see that college could be a possibility for me if I was willing to put in the work.
They helped me find a tutor, and I continued to boost my grades to be in a position to receive Division I scholarships for swimming.
When it came time to choose a college, proximity to home was an important factor for me, but I also wanted to go to a swimming program with a rich history.
Oakland checked both those boxes, in addition to having a strong criminal justice department.
It was the best of both worlds, as I could live out my dream of being a DI student-athlete and work toward my lifelong goal of being a police officer.
Oakland has been everything I thought it would be and more. The greatest part of it is — with Susan also enrolling at Oakland and swimming for the women’s team, I’ve had my best friend by my side the entire time.
I don’t know where I’d be without her, but I know for a fact I wouldn’t be thriving in the pool and classroom without her love and support.
The aspiration to be a police officer started at a young age. Every year at Halloween, when my friends would dress up as superheroes, cowboys, zombies, etc., my costume consistently remained the same.
It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.
Being a cop certainly isn’t the easiest profession, especially in today’s climate, so I made it my mission to be as educated as I possibly could. I’ve taken classes on mental health and drug abuse not only because I want to help people, but I want to better understand people and the struggles and challenges they face on a daily basis.
As someone who’s had to overcome quite a few different trials and tribulations, I feel strongly about being there to help protect and serve my community and give them the same opportunities to turn their lives around as I was able to.
I couldn’t be more thankful to Oakland for everything I’ve learned in my education here, and I know it’s going to make me a better officer when I join the force.
While nothing’s set in stone just yet, there’s a strong chance I’ll have the opportunity to compete this summer at a meet for USA Swimming.
If all goes as planned, that will be my last meet as a competitive swimmer, and I can’t think of a better way to retire from the sport after representing my country.
When I look back to where I was just a handful of years ago, I have to pause and reflect a bit on how far I’ve come.
I always knew that Oakland was “the” place for me, and I believe my progress in the pool is best proof of that. My senior year, for example, I was able to break the school record in the 50m freestyle — a record that stood since 2003. In my fifth year, I broke the school record in the 100m breaststroke — a record that was seemingly untouchable. In addition to that, I was the second alternate for the NCAAs and ranked 31st in the country. Sure, being an alternate wasn’t ideal, but I never thought this was even a possibility back in high school.
Also, being an Academic All-American for a DI university is not something I could have foreseen as a realistic possibility. Fortunately, I have people in my life that believed in me long before I ever started to believe in myself.
They never once gave up on me.
I’ve experienced opportunities and triumphs in the pool and classroom that never would have been possible without their support. I look forward to taking each of these experiences with me in my career as a police officer.
If my journey can serve as any source of inspiration, it’s that even when you think the world is out to get you and you’re at your lowest, life still moves forward.
And with the right attitude, work ethic, and people in your life, so can you.