TRIDENT students were beyond excited to participate in the Hillsborough County Special Olympics Swim Meet held at BSAC on Saturday August 4th. Swimming is an integral part of the curriculum for TRIDENT students, but specific training for the various stroke categories began eight weeks prior to the event.
“So many of my students did not know how to swim when they came to BSAC,” said Candi Corsi, Director of the TRIDENT program. “Now they are competing and winning blue ribbons, so I am very proud of them.”
Candi has been affiliated with the Special Olympics for over 20 plus years and has coached swimming for about 15 of those years. She began working at BSAC seven years ago and continues to make a difference in her students’ lives every day.
“It helps my students socially and allows them to be more confident in themselves,” said Corsi. “They get very proud of themselves because they accomplish something they didn’t know they could do.”
This competition not only helps the students, but also their parents when it comes to fear of the water. Parents are overwhelmed when seeing their child swim for the first time after never having formal lessons previously.
“It was my first time competing in a swimming race,” said Rachel Rodriguez, TRIDENT student. “It was so amazing because I never thought I could swim so fast. I just tried my best.”
As if the Special Olympics event isn’t exciting enough, TRIDENT students were absolutely delighted to see friend and professional entertainer Dennis Lee in attendance.
“I love all of those young adults,” said Lee. “How incredible is it that Special Olympics opens a new door to their existence and everything they are all about? It brings out the beauty of who they really are. People don’t get to see that every day; I am always inspired.”
Dennis has formed relationships with TRIDENT students over the years through his performances at events like the Strawberry Festival. TRIDENT student William Corsi is especially fond of their friendship and keeps Dennis up to date on what’s going on in the program. When William sent Dennis the invitation to attend Special Olympics this year, Dennis was right there cheering him on in the 200 meter swim.
“When he finished he was all excited and had his arms up in the air like Rocky,” said Lee. “He gets out of the pool and says, ‘Dennis Lee how do you think I did?’ I said, ‘Well you’re in first place, and, he goes, ‘Well, I was the only one swimming so I should be in first place!’ Then he asked for my band hat. My hair didn’t look so great, so giving up my hat was a sacrifice, but I’m happy for him to have it.”
TRIDENT students performed extremely well at the event collecting a total of 20 first place ribbons and 8 second place ribbons. They will also be participating in the Special Olympics Area Swim Meet on Saturday, August 18th at BSAC.
“It was amazing! I am really fast in the pool at the backstroke and freestyle, and I got two first place ribbons in the competition,” said Julia Petko, TRIDENT student. “Swimming is one of my favorite sports. I have been practicing for about nine years and it makes me feel great.”
The TRIDENT program at BSAC focuses on three main areas of education: active recreation, interpersonal skills, and independent life skills. Training for the Special Olympics allows students to grow in all of these areas. It’s not about winning the race, it’s about finishing the race and accomplishing a goal.
“I am very proud of them,” said Corsi. “They are an awesome bunch of students. There is nothing they can’t do, only things they are not allowed to do.”
Written By: Carli Walko
BSAC Director of Marketing