We thought we’d celebrate Women’s History Month by introducing you to two female, former V3 athletes who are doing big things in their professional lives. Tamia McLaughlin and Analyah Schlaeger dos Santos are today’s young leaders and tomorrow’s history makers, and they attribute their North Minneapolis upbringing and V3 mentorships as contributing factors to their success. It’s a big part of the legacy V3 will carry on in the new community center we’re be building!
First, we’ll introduce Tamia McLaughlin [jump to Q&A with Schlaeger dos Santos]. McLaughlin graduated from Spelman College and is wrapping up her first year as an elementary school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. The love of water she developed at age 5, and the coaching and inspiration she found as part of the V3 team as a youth, continue to drive her to help others, to this very day. Next stop Spain!
V3: So you’ll be working towards your Master’s Degree in Spain. What do you hope to do with that?
McLaughlin: I’ve got big goals. First of all, open up an early education development center where I would teach essentially minority students how to speak Spanish at an early age. It’d be like a dual immersion kind of program. I want a non-traditional school that teaches about the importance of life as a whole. I think the biggest problem I’m finding with students is… we’re in a pandemic, all this stuff is going on (and students are saying) why am I learning? What’s the point of this? I really want an environment that pushes the narrative that education is a lifelong journey. Coaches, teachers, mentors, all those people, it’s important to have different perspectives. I really want to dive into that a little bit deeper so students can really make a connection to school and life as a journey.
V3: It sounds like connecting with youth will be your life’s work. How did your time as a V3 athlete shape that mission?
McLaughlin: Coach Erika and the swim coaches I had growing up, and the transition into doing triathlons and being part of the team, those were my first experiences collaborating with other people. Being on a team, doing a sport which is hard and that’s on top of the fact that you have to deal with other people and collaborate and talk and manage your feelings. If you stopped (the coaches would say), you know, I’m here with you. We’re going to make it to the finish line. We’re in this together and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s not just about today, it’s about tomorrow. It’s about five years, ten years from now. It was about prosperity and growth and health and all the ways in which this, right now, is going to really benefit you in the future.
V3: Those coaches seem like they’re a big part of who you are today…
McLaughlin: I probably had a higher ceiling than I ever thought just because they blew the roof off. I think that’s where my drive and motivation come from. It was those that were around me that really saw something, that I want to do that for others. The main reason I want to be a teacher, a mentor and a coach is because of those people around me and I know those people make a difference in the lives of a lot of students.
V3: We know you’re following the progress we’re making that will lead to the construction of the V3 Center in North Minneapolis. Teaching swimming lessons, which is near and dear to your heart, will be a big part of our community impact. What do you think this access to swimming lessons will mean to the community?
McLaughlin: I know that it’s a generational thing. My mom doesn’t’ know how to swim. It started with me, and my brothers know how to swim now. So, this will be monumental for families. When I think of the Center, I literally think of changing things over a lifetime, you know, this isn’t something for today or tomorrow, it’s going to impact somebody’s kids and their kids’ kids. I think of generational change. I think it is awesome.
It is humbling to think V3 may have played a part in the development of such a young and inspiring leader and we can’t wait to follow McLaughlin on her journey to greatness. We are proud and thankful for the impact she’s had, and will continue to have, on hundreds of young people!
Next, we’d like to introduce you to Analyah Schlaeger dos Santos. She’s a V3 alum, environmental justice leader, community organizer, and swim instructor who fulfills her mission every day to make North Minneapolis a better place to live and raise a family. As busy as she is, our organization was lucky to add her as a board member. When the V3 Center is built, she’ll be in the water, continuing to impact youth in positive ways.
V3: You went from North Minneapolis to South Carolina, spent several years in Georgia, and then came back to North Minneapolis. What are you up to now?
Schlaeger dos Santos: I figured out how to expand on energy efficiency to include environmental justice in its myriad of definitions. So, I run an environmental justice youth program called “Youth and Power.” I work for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (works in partnership with faith communities to build transformative power and bring the lights of people’s unique gifts to addressing the climate crisis). Then, I run the “Family of Trees” which is an organization that looks to reforest North Minneapolis. So I’ve fully hopped into the environmental justice movement. Communication is at the forefront of everything I do.
V3: Much like you were “called” back to Minneapolis, you always seem to gravitate back towards teaching in swimming pools too…
Schlaeger dos Santos: I’ve been a swim teacher since I was 17, so it’s been 9 years. It’s taught me everything I know about communication. It’s allowed me to connect with a bunch of different people. I love swimming and I think my place on this earth is to connect. That’s like my bread and butter. So, it’s just been awesome. I’ve been swimming since I was a baby. My mom was a swim teacher too when I was little. Swimming is necessary! I didn’t start to get serious about swimming until I started with V3. So, having that foundation at that particular age range definitely helped me to become more active and want to see these kinds of things be available in my community. I didn’t realize that until adulthood; until I started doing community organizing, that increasing access, just a pool, can ignite something in people, something maybe they weren’t previously aware of, or they just haven’t had the opportunity or access to.
V3: Any other experiences with V3 that really inspire your work today?
Schlaeger dos Santos: (I really value) some of the things I’ve heard from my swim coaches, from coach Erika, from taking part in triathlons as far as pushing yourself, but also not breaking yourself. And being present in the community and recognizing we need to take care of ourselves, recognizing we need to take care of ourselves in order for us to take care of our community.
V3: And that brings us back, full circle, to the V3 Center and your position on the organization’s Board of Directors…
Schlaeger dos Santos: It’s really wild for me to think about the progression. You know, we were a concept and we were pioneers of that concept and now it’s turned into a program with a motto and a mission (and soon a world-class building). That’s all I can hope for in my life. I’m trying to do the same thing, all these concepts, and possibilities, to turn them into something you can look at and see and touch and feel and measure. Coming back and seeing what V3 has become, what it is now and will continue to become has been super incredible and such a blessing. I work with youth and within this community in particular. It’s been really awesome to come back to my community and offer what I can!
V3 continues to be amazed by Schlaeger dos Santos’ passion, energy, and expertise as she guides North Minneapolis’ next generation. Her input has been invaluable, and we can’t wait until she’s teaching swim lessons in the V3 Center Instructional Pool!