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Br. Rice swimmer makes splash as camp volunteer

Mitch Strahlman Brother Rice High School Chicago's Mount Greenwood community.  |  Supplied phoby Brian Barkowski

Mitch Strahlman, of Brother Rice High School in Chicago's Mount Greenwood community. | Supplied photo by Brian Barkowski

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Updated: June 27, 2014 6:16AM



This summer will be bittersweet for Brother Rice High School graduating senior Mitch Strahlman.

It will be the fourth and final summer in which he’ll be volunteering at the Edmund Rice Camp for Chicago inner-city kids.

Early on, Strahlman, who turns 18 Wednesday, was a reluctant volunteer.

“Initially, I was pushed to do it as a freshman,” he said. “The other guys on my swim team were urging me to do it. I tried it out and really liked the experience. You come away realizing how good you have it.”

After his first year, he didn’t have to be pushed to repeat the experience.

“Hands down, my favorite activity is working at the camp,” he said. “I love the Edmund Rice Camp because inner-city kids attend the camp for free. It is all a very humbling and rewarding experience.”

That’s saying a lot considering how many activities Strahlman has involved himself in during his four years at the school in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community. He was captain of the Brother Rice swim team, head editor for the school newspaper, a member of the key club, vice president of student council and vice president of the National Honor Society as a junior. He was named most valuable player three times for his efforts on the Brother Rice swim team, for whom he was a three-time state qualifier and a state finalist.

He also was named Junior of the Year and was a Larry Platt Essay Contest Finalist.

But his involvement with the Edmund Rice Camp trumps everything. There, as a camp counselor, he takes one or two kids under his wing for each day of the weeklong camp. He helps teach them to swim, runs the activities, oversees prayers and eats lunch with the kids.

“I’ve been counseling the same kids since my freshman year and now I know 75 percent of the kids by name,” he said. “It will be hard seeing these kids for the last time. Before, I’d say, ‘Hey, Max! I’ll see you next year.’ This year it will be hard saying goodbye for the last time.”

Strahlman, the son of Chris and Mary Kay Strahlman, of Chicago’s Beverly community, says his former theology teacher, Andrew Knoell, is his mentor.

“He isn’t teaching right now because he is sick, but he made an impression on me. My mom teaches here at Brother Rice, and as a freshman, people thought of me as her son. Mr. Knoell just looked at me objectively as a kid and I appreciated that,” he said.

Strahlman is committed to swim collegiately for Michigan State University.

“I plan on getting very involved and hope to get into business school and major in supply chain management,” he said. “In 10 years, I’d like to have a good job that involves writing because it is something I’d like to do. I’ll probably also still be doing laps in the YMCA pool.

“I have goals and I intend to reach them. I have goals for swimming and academics and that keeps me focused. When I practice swimming until 6 p.m., I know I have to get my homework done after that and that’s it. My mom says if I didn’t have swimming, I wouldn’t be so focused because I’d have too much time. It helps me stay on top of things.”



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