STEM Leader, Philanthropist and Olympic Gold Medalist
Katie Ledecky is the most decorated female swimmer of all time with seven individual Olympic gold medals and 19 World Championship titles, owning 18 out of 20 of the fastest 1500m freestyle times. She has prioritized community service and giving back throughout her career, earning Athletes for Hope’s 2022 Community Hero Award for her work in communities across the United States.
What inspired you to give back to your community and use your platform for good?
It is important to me to be able to give back to my community, inspire others and be a positive force in the world. As a young swimmer growing up, I never imagined I would be in a position to make a difference. Now, I really try to embrace the opportunities that I have, whether it’s in my community or around the country and even around the world, to try to inspire young athletes or young adults to dream big, go for their goals and to find the things that they’re passionate about and be the best that they can be at those things.
It’s one thing to be recognized for my accomplishments in the pool. But it’s really special to be recognized for what I do outside of it.Katie Ledecky
When was the first time you got involved in community service?
I got involved in community service after I went to my first Olympics at age 15. When I got back from London I had a lot more opportunities to give back. One of my first visits back in Maryland after winning my first gold medal was to Walter Reed where I met with the Wounded Warriors.
I’ve found that there’s really a power to the gold medal. It can really light up someone’s face. And so if I can make someone smile on any given day, that makes me smile, makes me happy.Katie Ledecky
What area of service are you most passionate about?
I’m really passionate about education and I love speaking to young students about the importance of education. I work with Panasonic and Discovery Education on an equal-opportunity STEM program called STEM Forward that encourages young students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math.
Any opportunity I have in life to inspire young kids to pursue their passions, especially in STEM education, I’m going to take it. Whether students use STEM skills for better problem-solving or critical thinking in life, or for a future career, it’s important that they have equal access to help propel them forward.Katie Ledecky
What are some other community service initiatives you are involved in?
I am a huge advocate for teaching others how to swim and making sure that as many young kids learn how to swim as possible because the drowning rate is still way too high. I enjoy visiting children’s hospitals whether it is in-person or a virtual visit. I also support organizations like Bikes For The World and the Wounded Warrior Project as well as Shepherd’s Table.
I try to help out in my community as much as I can. I think all athletes, no matter the level that they’re at, have the opportunity to give back and to help others.Katie Ledecky
*photos courtesy of Panasonic