My name is Brianna Leverenz, or Bri as I was called for the entirety of my college career. This past May I graduated from the University of Tennessee where I competed as a swimmer from 2015 until 2019. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona where the summers are painfully hot and backyard pools were a dime a dozen, so swimming has always been a part of my life. My sport was almost chosen for me because I am the youngest of 4 children, and if the older 3 swam, then so did I. I quickly found my own joy in swimming, and it was that passion that drove me to compete all the way through to an elite college level.
I knew that my swimming career would end with the termination of my college career, but I did not want my involvement with the sport to end as well. Swimming opened so many doors for me, and I owed it to myself, and the sport that I love, to use that platform to help others. To me, swimming is a sport and a pastime, but to many, especially in an archipelago like the Philippines, swimming is a life saving skill. I chose the Philippines because of an opportunity that arose and a need that I knew I could address, so I began crafting a plan. Now I am beginning a 3-month, 12 city journey all across a foreign country to coach kids how to swim and teachers on how to teach kids how to swim. The Filipino people will be the first to tell you that very few people, adults and children alike, know how to swim. I know that I will not be able to save everyone, but if I can help one child it will be a success.
While I would like to say this is a selfless mission, I want to be able to learn and grow as a person from experiencing a new culture and sharing my passion by pushing myself out of my comfort zone. From the months of planning this trip all the way to scheduling schools to work with, this project has been my own undertaking. I know the challenge of traveling alone, teaching hundreds of kids, and working with people with a different perspective is going to push me as an athlete, a person and a leader, and I hope to be able to channel that for positive personal growth. Sport is such a powerful platform for social change, and it is a gift to be able to share the possibility of hope with these kids. Swimming can be so much more than chasing a black line, it can be potential for something more.
While I am here by myself, I do not want what I am learning to end with me. I want to share my experience. Tune in to Athletes for Hope social media for my “Bri my Guest” series every Friday, and for more blog posts to come. If you are an athlete, and this is resonating with you, please reach out! Athletes for Hope is generously sponsoring my trip with the goal of expanding this project beyond me.