Alphonso Richardson swam through his summers in the pool on 16th and Berks streets. His pastime led to a college scholarship, and he is hoping to inspire this community’s next generation to follow his tracks.
I interviewed Richardson earlier this year for an article on Temple’s outreach to the community [“Hiring from the community changes fortunes,” March 4, 2008]. Afterwards, I told him to contact me if there was anything happening in the community that he felt Temple students should know about.
It just so happened that there was.
Richardson is trying to get Philadelphia’s Department of Recreation to bring back a swim meet for North Philadelphia youth. The meet would include all students from 8- to 16-year-olds. There would be novice and intermediate races in all strokes, plus a race for the lifeguards.
The Department of Recreation’s District Five pools and playgrounds would supply the contestants, as they did before the meet was dropped as a program. These pools include Richardson’s old stomping grounds, Amos Playground.
Richardson remembers it being more accessible. Back then, there were more programs, and the pool didn’t close in August, but stayed open until Labor Day. From his days in the pool, he was guided by Dan Corbit, a teacher at Wanamaker Junior High School and Department of Recreation swim coach.
Richardson readily gives credit to Corbit for getting him started in swimming. Corbit got him on a private swim team, the Tiger Sharks. After graduating high school, Richardson was given an athletic scholarship to swim for South Carolina State University’s swim team.
Two years later, SCSU dropped its swimming program, leaving Richardson without his scholarship and without a means of staying in college along with it. He returned to North Philadelphia and began working. Now, he is trying to bring back a meet to help those who might follow in his tracks, although hopefully with more success.
“Kids need these kind of programs,” he said. “If they get shut down, they’ll be going into other neighborhoods, and that’s when trouble starts.”
A swim meet for grade schoolers in North Philadelphia may not be the first thing on Temple students’ minds over the summer. Hard-won internships, tedious summer jobs and sunny vacations will command our attention, and they probably should, too.
At the same time, Temple is trying hard to give back and, even beyond that, is trying to create connections between the students and the community. This is one such opportunity.
The meet will need judges and timekeepers, and Richardson saw a chance for Temple students to become engaged in the community. As a local resident who was assisted in his process of applying for a job at Temple by Temple’s Community Outreach and Hiring Office, he knows that Temple is making an effort to connect to the community.
This meet is still in the planning stages, and the dates and details haven’t been established yet. However, if you happen to be looking for a chance to try something new, or simply build your resume, stay tuned to The Temple News blog — BroadandCecil.com — over the summer for more updates.
Stephen Zook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.