But when one of our local youths selflessly takes action to help save lives, it’s something truly to be recognized and commended.
Recently, Katherine Newcomb, a senior at Riverview High School, was honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as its 31st Lightning Community Hero for her extensive community service and commitment to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s (BSAC) Learn-to-Swim Program. As part of her recognition, Katherine received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program.
In-between working toward her goal to attend Florida State University to double major in business management and political science and donating more than 200 hours of her time to community service, she’s also changing — and helping to save — lives. Instead of using the donated dollars tied to her Community Hero recognition for something else entirely, Katherine selflessly donated half of the funds to BSAC and earmarked the other half for a scholarship for her own education.
At that age, I don’t know if I would have had the forethought to drive social change, but Katherine’s not just any high school student. She has seen firsthand the important work BSAC is doing to prevent youth drowning and these dollars will ensure the organization is able to further implement its Learn-to-Swim initiative to address and combat the issue of drowning on a local scale by teaching at-risk and disadvantaged youth how to swim.
Participating children in the program come by way of local Boys and Girls Clubs. To date, the program is well on its way to meeting its goal of providing more than 400 free swim lessons to children ages three to 13 and equipping them with basic water safety skills. BSAC is also expected to surpass its group lesson goal of 1,525, ensuring that even more individuals in Hillsborough County understand water safety procedures to prevent youth drowning.
Katherine should serve as an inspiration for not only teens, but adults, alike, looking to give back and make a difference. No matter the cause, we all have a role to play when it comes to protecting our vulnerable populations. Kudos to Katherine for leading by example as she helps to save young lives and in turn, makes our community a better place.
Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan is an advocate for youth drowning prevention in the county and Florida. He established a countywide swimmer safety pilot program to bring awareness to youth drowning and was recently honored with the dedication of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s ‘Ken Hagan Learn-to-Swim’ Community Pool for his efforts. He was first elected as a County Commissioner in 2002 and re-elected subsequently.