September 29, 2016
Nikki Jackson is four years removed from Orinda Aquatics and finishing college and other pursuits. She had a very challenging path as an athlete and as a young adult and had every reason to give in to social norms and peer pressure. This email came yesterday. We had not spoken to her in quite a while.
September 27, 2016
I just wanted to write an email to you guys to tell you how much in the past four years, as well as the last few months, I've realized how much OA and you guys have shaped me.
I am so glad for the high school experience that I had. I learned a great deal. But I see kids who are in high school drinking so young, and the lifestyle and value system that it brings, and I just thank god I was encouraged to avoid that life. I didn't drink alcohol once until I turned 21, and probably have only a handful of times since. It's so nice to not have that pressure, and to be confident enough to avoid those habits but still hang out with people who don't always do the same. Often, I am the “mom” of the group, making sure others are safe and are taken care of. I've never been stressed and thought "wow, I need a drink", instead I was raised to express myself and talk it out, and I am thankful for that.
Also, the friends I made in high school through swimming were impeccable. To have so many people who care for each other, and work hard together, is truly special. I am still so close with many of my teammates. No matter the distance I still feel like they're my siblings. I've learned to build strong relationships through common interests and communication, rather than through sharing a drunken experience together to form a bond.
The opportunity to swim for Orinda Aquatics is hands down the thing I am most thankful for thus far in my 22 years. Through my experiences and challenges I've been able to build relationships through my care for others, by genuinely believing we are in this together, and by sharing struggles with others. Our society is so used to displaying the perfect life that we never show ourselves being vulnerable. Everyone struggles through life but if we all help each other and feel love for others, it makes us happier. The power of opening up and communication has made me great friends whom I have a unique and deep relationship with. OA taught me such a special way to bond with all types of people away from alcohol and parties. I'm a communicator and have a genuine part of me that wants to help others open up and not feel alone.
Not just that, but I have been taught such dedication. If I have a task I am passionate about, you bet I'll drive myself to give 110%. Dedication and drive is something I had to learn, and I can't imagine being taught in a more calm and motivational environment.
No matter when you retire or what your next step is, know that you created something special for many people. You made us feel safe, important, and taught us so much about life in the real world. I can't imagine my life without Orinda Aquatics - without the friendships formed around care for each other, without frequently being reminded of the importance of family and being thankful for parents, and without learning to be social in a responsible way.
I hope you guys are well. Keep doing great things and remember how much you've positively influenced so many people. I cannot thank you enough.
XO, Nikki Jackson
Well, needless to say, your email was incredibly humbling, heartfelt, and most appreciated. We truly cannot begin to thank you for the kind words. We do try to make a difference, but in reality, it is people like you that become the hero's, role models, and life example of choosing a better (the right) path. Again, this is a true testament to a heroic journey that was always based on compassion and integrity. Too few young adults understand or fully embrace this.