At the Y, we not only provide opportunities for young adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also find ways to help them become well-rounded members of the community. JETS Swimmer Julie Wang is one such individual. Wang has been selected as one of just 22 swimmers from around the country to attend the YMCA’s Emerging Leader Academy in Orlando, Florida. The Academy’s conference will run from October 10 to October 13, providing an arena for students to hone their swimming talents as well further develop their leadership skills.
“These athletes are not only great swimmers, they are great kids. They have a combination of athletic skill and leadership qualities that stand out,” Director of Competitive Aquatics Ashleigh Thomas said. “Being able to lead is something the Y Leadership Conference looks for and wants to continue to develop.”
Wang’s relationship with the Y began when she was just five years old. At that time, she looked up to her older brother and his place in the JETS swim program.
“He had started when he was eight and swam until he graduated high school. I saw that he was having so much fun with the team and I wanted that as well. It motivated me. One of my goals was to improve on my swimming, but I also wanted to make friends,” Wang said.
Wang has maintained a strong relationship with her team members and says their support has made going to practices and meets some of the best experiences of her life.
“You feel like you’ve accomplished something because they are there to cheer you on. We’re highly motivated and hold each other accountable,” she said.
Wang, a junior at Joliet West High School, has taken what she has learned from her time on the JETS and put it into action for her school’s team.
“It’s a very different dynamic. Our team is in development and we’re trying to build a culture and a program. I came in as a freshman and was the fastest swimmer. When you’re in a situation like that a lot of people look to you. I realized you have to set a good example. The JETS has helped me strive to work harder,” Wang said.
Thomas said one of Wang’s strengths is her drive to be successful in a wide range of activities. Wang is a straight-A student and also plays the french horn for her school band.
“Julie is extremely well-rounded which is great if you’re going to compete in anything. She has this creative musical side to her and when you put her in groups she works well with different people,” Thomas said.
Wang tries to apply the principles of patience and dedication she has learned from JETS into everyday life.
“Swimming has taught me a lot about responsibility and time management. I always looked up to the older kids on the team and watched them succeed. I strived to do that as well and become the best version of myself,” Wang said.
In addition to the on-site “swimposium” aspect of the conference, academy assignments include online learning, interviews, self-assessment and a service project. Topics addressed will include leadership styles, communication, problem-solving and decision-making, difficult conversations, inclusion, influencing culture and mentorship. Wang is looking forward to what the program can teach her.
“I was honored to be considered. Being called a leader is a huge compliment. Ever since I was little, I have liked to take action to help people. It’s really rewarding,” Wang said. “I am blessed with so many opportunities and I want to make a difference and help the people around me. I feel like I’ll get to work on my leadership skills and meet other people with the same mentality.”
We congratulate Julie on her accomplishments and are proud to have her representing the Great Joliet Area YMCA this week!