Shattering Expectations in the Pool and Beyond

A student athlete’s swimming success story

Getting into college wasn’t a problem for Fernanda Rodriguez. The MAC Scholar Athlete and 2017 David Douglas graduate had great grades, was deeply involved in her community and was among the best swimmers in the state in the breaststroke. But paying for college was a different story.

Rodriguez’s family had limited resources, and she had limited access to federal funds typically available to graduating seniors. On top of that, her parents were uneasy about her decision to swim
at Oregon State University. “My family is very traditional, and for my parents, it was unheard of to go and be an athlete in college, or even leave home for college,” she says. “My parents wanted me to stay home and maybe study something simple.”

Rodriguez needed to find her own path to school, and a portion of that path ran through the Multnomah Athletic Foundation. Last year, Rodriguez was one of three recipients of the annual Joe Loprinzi Scholarship, the largest scholar- ship gifts the foundation awards each year. Her $11,000 award, combined with a partial swimming scholarship and an academic scholarship from OSU, were enough to make her college dream a reality.

“When I think of Fernanda, I think of how grateful she is for her opportunities,” says Jim Bowe, head swim coach at David Douglas High School. “After each season, Fernanda took the time to write a personal letter to each coach thanking them for the time and effort they put into her swimming and development as a person. In my 20-plus years of coaching, I’ve had plenty of young people thank me. She is the only athlete who has done that every year.”

This year, Rodriguez receives a continuing-support scholarship — a smaller gift MAF often provides to former Loprinzi winners having success in their college careers. Rodriguez and the foundation’s other scholarship recipients — 44 in all – will be recognized during the inaugural scholarship event in August.

Achievement Through Athletics

When Rodriguez joined the Oregon State swim team as a freshman in August 2017, she was struck by how different college swimming was from her competitive club program in high school. Sure, the swimmers were faster, but there were other differences. “Club swimming was very individual. In college, it’s more focused on what the team can do as a whole,” she says. “We swim for up to three hours a day, but there are team meetings, there is team bonding, and volunteer sessions where we all get to know each other better and give back to the community and support each other.”

It’s been a welcome change that helped her find a community of friends and men- tors. That’s invaluable when you’re a new student at a big school in a sport that requires you to work out, eat breakfast and head to class before the average freshman is awake. Collegiate swimming has also offered the opportunity to travel. With meets nearly every weekend during the season, Rodriguez has logged more miles in one year than she had in the previous 18. And she’s building relationships along the way.

“It feels like family,” she says of college swimming. “I’m with some of my best friends. I train with them 24-7, we live in the dorms together, we eat together, we go places together.”

When she’s not in the pool, Rodriguez is studying kinesiology with a nursing focus. After she graduates from Oregon State, she plans to attend a two-year nursing program and become a trauma nurse.

What’s in a Name?

Rodriguez’s scholarship is named after Joe Loprinzi, the fitness guru and longtime MAC employee who needs little introduction. But there are other scholarships MAF oversees that honor the work of individuals who have made a difference at MAC and in the community.

The Loprinzi Scholarship provides an $8,000 award to three outstanding student athletes that attend one of our twenty nine program high schools.

To learn more about the scholarships offered at the foundation visit our scholarship page.

Originally published in the July/August 2018 Issue of The Winged M magazine.