By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, June 7, 2020—Leonardo Mateus and Rafael Rodriguez took turns talking about academic excellence and extra curricular activities in high school during a recent zoom presentation for SOFLO’s Bronze Group and AK Sharks Group.
The swimmers were a perfect age (11, 12, 13) to learn how to handle high school classes and plan for the future in college. Rodriguez is headed to Purdue and Mateus is off to Yale this fall.
After it was determined that both Mateus and Rodriguez are Coach Rose’s favorites (pause for laughter), the talented student-athletes got down to business sharing what they learned when they got to high school and what worked and what didn’t while highlighting important tasks to get ready for college.
“Knowledge is power,” said Mateus, who outlined several key points and illustrated how swimming helps in the classroom.
1. Discipline comes from training.
2. Leadership is built from teamwork. Think about the relays you do. “I’ve seen you get organized for relays, that is teamwork,” Mateus said.
3. Proactivity comes from persistence. Be proactive. Give your best from the beginning.
“You will do well in what you enjoy in high school,” Rodriguez said. “Whether it’s the sciences, math, challege yourself by taking AICE/AP and IB courses.”
AICE or Advanced International Certificate of Education offers the value of broad and balanced study in four groups (math and sciences, language, arts and humanities and interdisciplinary.
AP or Advanced Placement Program offers college-level curriculum and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities may grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high schools on the exams.
IB or International Baccalaureate is often compared with the AP program. The IB program allows students to take college-level courses while in high school.
Rodriguez said “the most important thing is don’t choose classes because your friends are taking them. Choose something that you actually enjoy and that will translate into you doing better. When choosing classes focus on yourself.”
Mateus discussed GPA (grade point average, a measure of individual ability), class ranking (academic ability compared to everyone else), and how grading works in quarters and semesters, unweighted (4.0) and weighted (6.0), depending on honors classes.
“It’s important your first year in high school that you don’t slack off,” Mateus said. “It’s easy to bring your GPA down if you do slack off and once it is down it’s hard to get your average back up. Focus on the things you can do easily that first year and wait a year maybe to take the harder classes.”
Mateus also talked about PSAT, SAT and ACT tests and suggested taking each exam once to see how you do and take it more than once to feel more comfortable while taking it.
There are resources and online educational tools such as Khan Academy, Naviance and YouTube to use to study for classes and standardized tests.
Rodriguez and Mateus also emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities such as swimming.
“Swimming is your most important extra curricular, it looks amazing on your resume,” Rodriguez said.
“Community service is difficult because of the number of service hours you have to do, but important to integrate on your resume. It expands your horizons. It’s unpaid work and looks good on your resume. Jobs, internships and paid work also looks good on your resume and shows that you have experience.”
Clubs and organizations, memberships in honor societies and leadership positions in clubs are also important, they said.
“You don’t have to do all these things to be successful,” Mateus said. “It just helps to combine academics and activities.
“Find the learning connection,” Mateus said. “It teaches you discipline, leadership and productivity and that’s what you take away from swimming. You learn to balance academics and swimming.
“You learn all about making time with time management skills. You break time into sections dedicated to swimming, service, clubs and getting straight A’s.”
Added Rodriguez, “If you’re not good at managing your time it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s important to find the perfect balance of what you are capable of handling.
“Make sure you have time for yourself, too. It shouldn’t be all about swimming, classes, work and clubs. Hang out with your friends. It’s important, it helps you mentally.”
The pair suggested to ask teachers and coaches to write recommendation letters. It helps colleges form an image of you through those letters, they said.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it,” Rodriguez said.
The final topic outlined information about applying for scholarships.
1. Money is important for your future education.
2. Applying for scholarships is easy. It is a quick and easy source of money to pay for tuition and expenses.
3. There are scholarships available at the local, regional, collegiate and national level.
“It’s important to write down everything you have to do,” Mateus said. Whether it’s homework, practice or meetings, it’s easy to forget if you don’t have an agenda.”
Rodriguez added, “you don’t have to be a straight A student to have opportunities for college. You just have to work hard.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org