High school athletes spend summer with animals, sailing and more

With heat rising in recent weeks, local students are traveling, volunteering at shelters and more

  • Parkville's Tasmine Prater, left, and Patapsco's Nia Williams are working at an outreach program in order to become instructors at the Downtown Sailing Center.
Parkville's Tasmine Prater, left, and Patapsco's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
July 06, 2012|By Katherine Dunn and Glenn Graham, The Baltimore Sun

With high temperatures soaring above 90 degrees across the Baltimore region in recent weeks, it wouldn't be surprising to see high school students relaxing in their air-conditioned homes for the entire summer, playing video games and other indoor activities as they await the start of a new school year.

But these local athletes are finding different ways to beat the heat — from spending time on the water to traveling out of the country to caring for animals and more.

Tasmine Prater, Parkville
Track, cross country
Nia Williams, Patapsco
Track, basketball, cheerleading

With their summer jobs, Tasmine Prater and Nia Williams can't stay inside as the temperature climbs, but they're in the next best place — on the water, sailing near the Inner Harbor.

Working as assistant sailing instructors at the Downtown Sailing Center, Prater, a rising senior at Parkville, and Williams, a rising junior at Patapsco, have the perfect summer job.

"Before I did this, I went on a sailing expedition, which was pretty neat," Prater said. "Ever since, I just got interested in the idea of sailing, in moving over water with the sailboat, which sounds kind of strange, but I just like the feel of it, the excitement and all."

Neither Prater nor Williams, who both run track, had ever thought about sailing until they went through the Bridges program at St. Paul's, which offers summer programs and eventually summer jobs to underserved urban children. As a partner with Bridges, the Downtown Sailing Center offers some of those job opportunities.

Last June and July, Prater and Williams spent seven weeks in the Sailing Instructor Training (S.I.T.) program, learning the basics of sailing as well as leadership and team-building skills. Both were eager to come back this year.

Lynn Handy, the Downtown Sailing Center's outreach manager, said the two Baltimore County athletes should earn their Level 1 certification with the U.S. Sailing Association and become full instructors by the end of next summer.

In the Bridges program, Williams said, children getting ready for high school go to potential employment sites to learn what might work best for them.

"We tell them what we like to do, do we like to work with kids or do we like to do certain other things. The things that I said [were] similar to what I'm doing at the Downtown Sailing Center, which is teaching people how to sail — whether it's kids or people with disabilities. I really like it," said Williams, who also plays basketball and is a cheerleader. She attends Patapsco for the school's magnet program for dance.

Prater, who also runs cross country at Parkville, went on a 21-day Outward Bound sailing expedition off the coast of Maine last summer before starting his training.

"It's pretty exciting just managing the boat overall," Prater said. "It's a bunch of aspects to be aware of, like points of sail. You have to check the wind, you have to always look around you for other boats, and it teaches you a lot about management overall."

For Williams, however, her first time on a sailboat was at the center.

"When I first started I was scared because I never worked with boats, but they set it up where it was fun learning," she said. "They teach you parts of the boat and they may have little competitions where, say you're learning how to tie knots to tie the boat down or doing a race to write down all the parts of the boat. Even when you're on the water, they have a course and you and another boat might race different sails and stuff. It was fun learning, so I knew I'd like to come back."

Handy said both young sailors have excelled at their training.

"It was a pretty intense program last year and they just really shine," she said. "Nia just picked up sailing like nobody's business and Tasmine is someone who is incredibly dedicated to the sport. They have great ability to work with kids, and they have a great work ethic."

Both 16-year-olds hope to go to college at Maryland — Prater to become an engineer and eventually a pilot and Williams to become a pediatrician — and both want to keep sailing.

"If it wasn't for coming to [the Downtown Sailing Center]," Prater said, "I probably wouldn't have any idea about sailing and wouldn't be involved in it at all. I think it's something everybody can enjoy and everybody should try it at least once."

Pegah Bahar, McDonogh
Soccer, swimming, softball

Going on vacations and visiting family members who live abroad, Pegah Bahar, a rising junior at McDonogh, has already seen a good chunk of the world — including Italy, England, France, Germany and Turkey.

This summer, she is excited to add another globe-trotting experience — a trip to Tajikstan, a country in Central Asia, as part of a U.S. Department of State program to study the language (Persian) and culture. Both of Bahar's parents speak Persian, she said.

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