California teen spreads ‘the right to play water polo’

California teen spreads ‘the right to play water polo’

Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award winner Skylar Dorosin is teaching underprivileged girls the joys of aquatic sports

Skylar Dorosin, now a student at Stanford University, founded Project 2020 to teach swimming and water polo to underprivileged girls. (photo credit: Project 2020/JTA)
Skylar Dorosin, now a student at Stanford University, founded Project 2020 to teach swimming and water polo to underprivileged girls. (photo credit: Project 2020/JTA)

JTA — Skylar Dorosin can’t imagine her life without water polo — so the 18-year-old Californian is trying to use the sport to change the lives of others.

Bringing together her passion for water polo and a longstanding commitment to social action, Dorosin, a rising sophomore at Stanford University in her native Palo Alto, runs Project 2020, a service project she launched five years ago that teaches swimming and water polo to underprivileged girls living in neighboring communities.

“Everyone deserves the right to play water polo,” said Dorosin, who competed at the Junior Olympics while in high school and was on Stanford’s team as a freshman. “I wanted to give those girls a chance.”

With help from her teammates and friends as well as Brenda Villa, a four-time Olympian and Stanford alumna, Dorosin has organized seasonal clinics, raised money to buy balls, caps and swimsuits, and provided transportation to local pools for more than 250 girls in Northern California.

Recently awarded a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award of $36,000, Dorosin said she plans to use a portion of the prize to further her goals for Project 2020, which include expanding to a full-year program and developing a competitive team.

Still unsure of her major, Dorosin is enjoying taking classes in engineering, management and neuroscience. She describes herself as “culturally Jewish but not very religiously Jewish,” and is looking forward to participating with the Stanford Hillel in Birthright Israel next summer.

Dorosin spoke to JTA about her sport, her advice for other service-minded teens and why she enjoys celebrating Hanukkah.

What attracted you to the sport of water polo?

I wanted [to play] a team sport that combined a ball and my love of the water. I started playing when I was 13 and immediately loved it!

Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?

I was visiting the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and walking through, there was a quote [Isaiah 1:17]: “learn to do good; devote yourself to justice.” It really stuck. This is part of my Jewish upbringing and what my family taught me.

What advice would you give to other teens interested in launching a service project?

Find something that you’re passionate about and want to share. Don’t be afraid to reach out into your community and see if there is an interest. You’re just one phone call or meeting away, and there’s a high chance that there are others that are also interested and they’d love to have your help. It doesn’t take a giant act to make a difference.

If you could have lunch with anyone and tell him or her about your service project, who would it be?

It would be amazing to talk to Michelle Obama because of her “Let’s Move!” campaign. I would love to talk to her about her goals with education and young children and finding a way to make girls feel self-confident and comfortable.

What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Hanukkah because it’s a celebration that brings my whole extended family together in the wintertime and I really enjoy the “gift of giving.”

Besides playing water polo, what kind of things do you like to do for fun?

I like hanging out with friends and going to the beach, Pilates and hiking.

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