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Williams Field swimmer goes above and beyond away from the pool

PHOENIX — When Emily Thomas isn’t swimming, there’s a good chance she’s giving.

In the pool, the talent is there. The Williams Field High School senior owns school records in the 100-meter backstroke, 500m freestyle, 200m freestyle relay, 200m medley relay and 400m freestyle relay. A captain during her junior and senior years and also a member of a club team, Thomas has taken to swimming in bigger bodies of water than the ones in and around the Valley — just recently, she was preparing for a 20-mile night swim in the Catalina Channel off the coast of California.

But Thomas makes a bigger splash around the community.

Sometimes, she might not even realize it. From Face-timing her sister’s friends to help tutor them to working through various volunteer organizations, giving back comes easily for Thomas.

She’s the president of DECA, a program that teaches students marketing, management and entrepreneurship in various business fields. To help her fellow classmates raise money to cover fees for the program’s state and international competitions, Thomas started a business to make and sell t-shirts, with all funds going toward entry into the competitions where scholarships can be won.

Twice, Thomas has qualified for the international competition herself. In it, she presented business plans for real start-ups.

Her first venture was a Market Days event at her school.

“There’s a day where everyone goes to the courtyard and everyone sets up their business and sells, so it teaches them how to run a business and start it up,” Thomas said.

She also founded the T-Shirt Shack, which creates and sells shirts for school clubs and sports teams to raise funding.

Thomas volunteers at swim meets and is in the National Honor Society. As vice president of finance, she also helped found the Helping Others Build Opportunities Club (HOBO) this past year, and the group has already put together a blanket drive for a local homeless shelter.

“We just started telling people about it at our school, and we got like a couple hundred people to do it,” she said.

Of course, the star swimmer gives back around the pool.

She has spent time volunteering at the Special Olympics and for Camp Fiesta, a summer program for kids in Mesa. At school, she spends lunches with special needs kids through the Best Buddies program.

“I just really enjoy being around them,” Thomas said. “They’re the happiest people and I find it really fun.”

All in all, making life easier for others comes naturally for Thomas, who grew up with dyslexia and has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA.

The next step: deciding where to attend college, where she hopes to earn a swimming scholarship and study to become a nurse.

Character Counts is a registered trademark of the Josephson Institute.
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