Two SF State faculty members swim to raise money toward scholarships for undocumented students

Two SF State faculty members completed a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park last Sunday in an effort to raise money for a scholarship that funds undocumented students.

Nancy Jodaitis, a financial aid advisor, and Karla Castillo, a mental health counselor, finished the Alcatraz Invitational Swim, raising more than $2,100 for the Continue the Dream for Academic Excellence Scholarship. The event featured a slew of more than 1,000 swimmers trying to get to the finish line in rough currents.

Hundreds of swimmers paddle for the finish line at San Francisco's Aquatic Park during the Alcatraz Invitational Swim Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Frank Ladra / Xpress.

Hundreds of swimmers paddle for the finish line at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park during the Alcatraz Invitational Swim Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Frank Ladra / Xpress.

“I made it,” a winded Jodaitis said. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I made it.”

To prepare for the event, the two women trained regularly over the period of a month by swimming in the San Francisco Bay, according to Jodaitis.

“I’ve been a swimmer for a long time, but open water swimming is a lot different,” Jodaitis said. “I thought I was going to be scared, but I wasn’t.”

Castillo said her swimming background comes from casual time she spent in the pool at SF State during her lunch hours.

“I was overwhelmed (because) I felt I was swimming for something bigger than myself,” Castillo said. “It was an amazing experience, and it wasn’t even that cold.”

Jodaitis and Castillo took on the challenge with two friends, earning money through a GoFundMe campaign put together by the AB 540 task force at SF State, which helps identify and assist undocumented students who cannot get financial aid.

SF State alumnus Marcos Tapia, one of their fellow supporters who swam with them, said he organized the event for their group after the two women approached him.

“I was already going to do it, and they said they wanted to come along too,” Tapia said. “They were all gung-ho, and they said they wanted to raise money, so I said ‘let’s do it.’”

According to Nicky Trasvina, SF State’s advisor of liberal and creative arts, the scholarship helps undocumented students in California who are part of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act pay for their tuition.

“The AB 540 Task Force helps dreamer students get out with their degrees in the most time efficient way we possibly can,” Trasvina said. “They understand that every unit counts because they are paying for their tuitions out of their own pockets.”

Trasvina estimated there are more than 600 undocumented students at SF State.

In its third year, Jodaitis and Castillo expect the scholarship to be awarded to six recipients. Jodaitis said the group exceeded their goal of funds raised, and expect more money to come in before the scholarship’s Sept. 19 deadline.

“This event was so special for me because I got to mesh my love of swimming with my love of helping undocumented students,” Jodaitis said. “We’ve never done this before, but this is the most money we’ve ever raised (and) we’re planning on making this an annual event.”

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