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“When they started going to the Club, I thought it would be a nice place for them to go. I did not expect it to change their lives so much, so quickly.” 

Claribel Montes, Club parent

For Club members Kiara and Kathia, their lives changed in ways they couldn’t have imagined when they took their first plunge into the pool at the Richard A. Voke Aquatics Center of the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Boys & Girls Club. 

These 10-year-old twin sisters joined the Club for summer camp two years ago having never swam before in their lives. Fast forward to this past spring, and they were competing in the Boys & Girls Clubs National Swimming Championships in St. Peterburg, Florida. 

Their rocket ship ride from a “guppie,” the beginner-most level in the Club’s aquatics program, to national championship contenders is a story about two remarkable girls transforming their lives through a Club program.  

Spoiler alert: their transformation as swimmers isn’t even the most impressive part. 

Stronger than I think I am

“I was surprised I progressed so fast, and I realized I’m stronger than I think I am,” explained Kathia when she was asked about her rapid growth as a swimmer over the past two years. “Swimming showed me that if I try something and I don’t give up, I can do it because anything is possible. 

Her experience of exceeding her own expectations for herself and uncovering her true potential is an experience every young person is waiting for. It is a critical step in recognizing one’s talents and passions in life, but beyond that, it is a critical step in growing and developing foundational confidence that can guide them on the path in pursuit of those passions. 

Kathia and Kiara at Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club

“When I learned how to swim so easily, I felt like I could learn more challenging things too,” said Kathia’s twin sister Kiara. “I felt more confident when trying some of the more challenging drawing and painting techniques we were learning during art.” 

For both sisters, the confidence they picked up from their success in swimming overflowed beyond their Club and into their lives at school. Kathia brought her can-do attitude into math class, where she now persists in solving problems that had previously stumped her. Kiara now recognizes opportunities to lead and mentor younger students in school activities. 

“They have grown so much, in so many ways, over the past two years,” reflects Claribel, the mother of Kiara and Kathia. “When they started going to the Club, I thought it would be a nice place for them to go. I did not expect it to change their lives so much, so quickly.” 

Kathia and Kiara with their mother Claribel in front of Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club

Growing into Herself

As twins, Kiara and Kathia have shared a special bond for their entire lives. Today, they focus on establishing their own unique identities from each other as well. 

“The Club, and swimming in particular, has been instrumental in this,” explains Claribel. “Going back to their days in the womb, before they were even born, Kiara was consistently following after Kathia’s lead and taking her cues from her sister. Over time, this impacted her and made her feel like her sister was always ahead of her.” 

This dynamic was visible to the twins’ teachers at school as well as Jordan Club staff when they first started attending. Once they were on the swim team though, this changed fast. 

“Kiara’s sense of individuality really took shape as she progressed as a swimmer,” notes Jordan Club’s Aquatics Director Sarah McCafferty. “Kathia had qualified for the swim team immediately at the beginning of the season. Kiara, motivated to qualify, attended a night program I ran for swimmers who were on the brink of qualifying for the team and earned her spot right before we hosted a meet against another Club. Even though she didn’t have her team uniform yet, she insisted on competing in that first meet. She had earned her spot on the team and she knew she belonged. Today she is a leader on the team and sets her own example for young members to look up to.” 

Kathia and Kiara with Aquatics Director Sarah McCafferty

Kathia, her mother observed, has experienced much personal growth since joining the team too. “I’ve noticed that she is thriving in social situations that she used to try to avoid,” noted Claribel. “She has grown into herself socially through the confidence she has built up with swim.” 

Learning the Gratification that Comes with Hard Work

Kiara and Kathia have fully embraced their talent for swimming, and continuously seek opportunities to learn and grow. “They are at every practice, every night, ready to go at the beginning of every drill,” explained McCafferty. “Some swimmers, including myself when I was their age, try to get out of sprints and drills by going to the locker room and hiding out in there. Not them. They know it is an opportunity to get better.” 

The two have even adjusted their lifestyle to get the most out of themselves, altering their diet to cut back on sugar. “I want to keep pushing myself,” explained Kathia. “Sarah and my sister have both helped me instill positive self-talk into my mindset.” 

Kathia and Kiara before competing in Nationals (left) and following a swim meet (right)

Kathia, who has asthma, taps into this habit as she powers through the 200-meter freestyle event. “You work hard, just keep going,” she says to herself. She eventually finished sixth in this event at the national championships and became the only swimmer from the Club to qualify for the second round of competition. 

As the end of the season approached, Kiara knew she needed to trim 3 seconds off her time to qualify for nationals. 

“She was the first one in the pool and the last one out during every practice leading up to the end of the season,” recalled McCafferty. “I knew she was going to qualify.” 

It was after sectionals that Kiara, Kathia, and other qualifying swimmers received a special envelope with a plane ticket inside, letting them know that they would be traveling to Florida to compete in the National Swimming Championships. 

Connecting with a Life Changing Mentor

Both girls credit the Club’s Aquatics Director, Sarah McCafferty, as their coach, mentor, and the reason they are the swimmers, and well-rounded individuals, that they are today. 

“All season she comforted us and reminded us that she believed in us,” remembers Kiara. 

McCafferty, who started working at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club at about the same time Kiara and Kathia joined, is especially proud of the growth she’s seen them make. 

Kiara and Katia at the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club

“They have both matured mentally just as much as they have improved physically,” McCafferty explains. “And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fast swimmer when you join the team. It’s about making friends and gaining confidence.” 

Claribel acknowledges the tremendous impact McCafferty has had on her daughters’ lives too, and she shared: 

“I’ve considered moving in the past, but every time I do, I remember that there may be another Boys & Girls Club and there may be another pool, but there won’t be another Sarah anywhere that I go.” 

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