The undergraduate initiative, Amphibious Achievement, has received a grant from the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation for the 2015-16 academic year.
Amphibious Achievement combines athletic and academic mentorship from MIT students to high school students in the greater Boston area. The initiative teaches qualities such as discipline and confidence through rowing and swimming and then brings them into the classroom with academic support focusing on college preparation. It was started and remains run by MIT undergraduates since 2011.
Previously, the organization relied on one-time donations to provide lunch options such as pizza for their 50 high school students, called Achievers, while leaving MIT volunteers to purchase their own food. Amphibious Achievement will use the funds to provide both lunch and breakfast and create a better environment through a communal meal. “Most of our Achievers are on free and reduced lunch, and the breakfast and lunch that Amphibious Achievement provides are crucial,” explained Charlotte Keeley ’17, Amphibious Achievement’s Managing Director of Development. “The quality of the food will better align with our healthy ideals, and the quantity will be enough to feed everyone, giving us a chance to share a special collegiate meal together.”
The Amphibious Achievement leadership worked with Dean Henry Humphreys, Bob Ferrara ’67, Carl King ’65 president of the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation, and the Division of Student Life Office to advocate for funding. Humphreys said, “We are helping a group of students who are being innovators at an educational level, and we are helping those students be the special students that they are: entrepreneurs that aren’t making any money. They are community activists.”
With the new funding, Humphreys is connecting her with MIT dining staff to help provide affordable quality meals to the beneficiaries of the program.
“I think it will help them grow,” said Humphreys. “It also takes the stress off them because they were always trying to do these great things while being MIT students and trying to figure out how to stretch their money and find food. I think we have helped eliminate one of the stresses so they can focus on interacting with the students of the community and growing the program.”
“We were proud to be involved in a project such as this,” said King. “It was a student initiative, student volunteers, and student fundraising that was making it work, and the purpose of our foundation from when we started it in 2001 was to encourage student activities of this nature. It was to improve the educational process and quality of life of both MIT students and students in the Cambridge-Boston community. Amphibious Achievement is a homer for us in that regard.”
The 484 Phi Alpha Foundation has deep ties to MIT, having been created by the trustees of Sigma Alpha Epsilon with a focus of supporting educational efforts in and around MIT.
Humphreys expressed how impressive he has found the organizers and mentors of Amphibious Achievement. “They light up when they start talking about the students that they work with. It’s not just about teaching them how to swim and give them better academic skills. They get excited about making a difference in these students’ lives.” On average, MIT volunteers spend five to seven hours a week as coaches or mentors while the directors may devote up to 15 on the initiative.
“We are so grateful to the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation and our advocates within MIT for their support of our program, both in the past and in the present,” said Keeley. “We really believe that a healthy and hearty lunch will make a huge difference in the way that we run.”
Humphreys believes Amphibious Achievement to be a phenomenal program and hopes that more members of the MIT, Cambridge, and Boston communities becomes aware of its existence and efforts. “They are breaking down walls between higher education and students who are maybe struggling through high school and showing them what is achievable.”
Story by: Sarah Goodman