Artistic Swimming Is For Everyone
by Alyssa Jacobs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Earlier in 2021, USA Artistic Swimming committed to making strides to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. In response, the Board of Directors restructured to include a VP of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and launched a subsequent committee to support this mission. Ashley Johnson was named to this position and has begun working collaboratively with former National Team member and current AEC president Emmanuella Tchakmakjian to implement change and programming to educate and support.
Together, Ashley and Emma have launched the first ever DEI Athlete Ambassador program to encourage change in the artistic swimming community’s youth. Eight athletes were selected through an application process to serve and inspire change within their communities. The responsibilities of the first-ever Athlete Ambassadors will include implementing new action plans to help continued growth of underrepresented groups, working directly with Zone Representatives to share important information, serving as ambassadors for USAAS by welcoming new athletes of all backgrounds and attending meetings to collaboratively achieve goals. The first class of DEI Athlete Ambassadors includes Sarah Levaro, Zoe Tomilson, Anya Zhang, Courtney Elhart, Gabriela Perez, Ryan Lewis, Katherine Moss and Temi Oladeji.
Additionally, the DEI Committee will be hosting its first workshop for junior, senior and collegiate athletes entitled Allyship: USAAS Athletes Moving Forward as One via Zoom on Sunday, December 20th at 5 p.m. PT. USAAS plans to offer a supportive, safe and creative environment that will facilitate athletes in an open discussion about these issues. The panelists will include Bill May, Brianna Holmes, Rachel Holmes, Monica Velazquez-Stiak and more. To register for this workshop click HERE.
2021 will be a transformative year for our nation and USA Artistic Swimming. With support at all levels of our organization, the message is clear: artistic swimming is for everyone.
MESSAGES FROM DE&I LEADERS:
“I am so excited that our organization is willing and ready to move aggressively forward in the area of diversity, equality and inclusion. Many significant DEI changes have been established and approved at conventions already, strong statements have been made and new policies implemented to support a more equitable organization for all. It is amazing to see more athletes and coaches of color as well as males in leadership roles already. Our new DEI Athlete Ambassador program allows our young and very passionate athletes to become leaders of the USAAS DEI movement. It's absolutely fantastic that USAAS is allowing us to work together and offer great opportunities to our members. I have many goals for my two-year term, but the most important is to increase exposure and inclusion of the underrepresented in our sport and to motivate and support more people of color, males, LGBTQ+ and athletes with disabilities to become judges,” VP of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, Ashley Johnson, said.
Emmanuella Tchakmakjian supported Ashley’s statements and matched her enthusiasm and ambition: “I am very proud of our organization's preliminary intense push for DEI representation. The proactivity from all parts of our membership is remarkable and highlights how special our community truly is. Looking forward, offering interpersonal opportunities for learning and conversation with our Allyship webinar series illuminates our commitment towards DEI. These brave conversations will be pivotal in further shaping our USAAS inclusive culture. I am also ecstatic about our new DEI Athlete Ambassador Program because it gives athletes active leadership roles in promoting DEI representation for the first time ever. I have complete faith in our athletes, coaches, judges, clubs, zones, and our incredible VP DEI Ashley Johnson to advance our mission.”