By MILTON KENT
It’s been three months since the Towson swim team last splashed in a pool in anger or anything else for that matter, but they may have received their biggest win of the year a couple of weeks ago.
That’s when a group of sixth graders came to visit the campus. While the plan was for the Tiger swimmers to impart knowledge and wisdom on the younger students from the SEED School of Maryland, you can’t convince head coach Pat Mead that it wasn’t his team that got the biggest lesson.
“It’s perspective,” said Mead. “There’s just a small perspective that hopefully our kid s walk away (with). It really is about kind of raising your consciousness and making the most out of every day.”
The SEED School, a public, college preparatory facility, opened in Maryland at its complex in suburban Baltimore in 2008, after a similar operation launched in 1998 in Washington. Families apply for entrance and are accepted through a lotrery.
The Maryland school serves over 300 students from grades six through nine, with the twist that the students live on the campus every week from their arrival each Sunday evening until classes end Friday afternoon.
Through a connection between former assistant coach Joanne Perez and school board member Pat Modell, the late wife of former Ravens owner Art Modell, the Towson team first established a connection with SEED in the fall of 2010, when the Tigers visited the SEED campus.
But the bond was especially forged when the SEED students came to Towson, as they did in the spring of 2011 and again in late April.
The wide-eyed children, many who hail from broken homes and from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, brought their curiosity and wonder to college, visiting the dorms and dining halls and interacting with Towson students.
The connection between the Tigers and SEED also opens a possible portal for the younger students to be exposed to swimming, a sport that has not historically drawn significant interest from the minority community.
Mead believes the gap between swimming and African-Americans is not insurmountable.
“It’s not about ability,” said Mead. “It’s about access to a facility. If you don’t have access to a facility, if you don’t have access to instructors, then you can’t learn. Swimming is one of those sports where you have to have access to that. Unfortunately, swimming pools aren’t as plentiful and the opportunities...aren’t; there.”
Mead said subsequent visits will emphasize water safety, but for now, it’s more important to get the SEED students better acquainted with life in college and what it can lead to.
“The goal is to expose their students to what the end result of doing well in school,” said Mead. “That end result is being able to go to college and know all about the different opportunities that college can provide and where it can lead them.”
And don’t think for a moment that the lessons have gone entirely from one direction. Mead said he and his swimmers have gained an important understanding of a different side of life from the SEED kids.
“It (the relationship with SEED) has a huge upside for us,” said Mead. “The upswing, or at least my hope is our kids walk away having a greater sense of appreciation for the things that have been provided to them and have a greater appreciation for the opportunities that are presented to them every day and don’t take the little things for granted.”
“The little things sometimes are, ‘I’ve got a mother and father, my school is being paid for and I’ve got an opportunity to get a job.’
Recognizing the gifts you’ve been given in life and sharing them with others can be the biggest win of all.
For more information about the SEED School of Maryland, visit the school’s website at http://www.seedschoolmd.org/