Oakland man combines social justice with swimming

An Oakland man is merging social justice with swimming, through the Oaklantis swim team and swim school.

The founder and coach, Scott Thompson, grew up swimming competitively through college. When he moved to Oakland 10 years ago, he said he wanted to get more children in the pool. He called swimming a "vastly 'white' sport," and said "the mission of our swim club is to expand swimming to places where it might otherwise not be."

Thompson started Oaklantis, and now children from all over Oakland meet at Castlemont High School's pool, year-round.

Charmin Roundtree-Baaqee grew up in Oakland, and her twins have been swimming with Oaklantis for three years. "I felt like I could be in a place where I would see people who look like me and my children, and I could also have this experience in my own backyard," said Roundtree-Baaqee. She said the parents of the swimmers work about as hard as the children do: "We have parents who volunteer to take care of the classes, skill sets, fundraise, volunteer, who bring other people's children to practice," she said, "it's definitely a community effort."

That "community" aspect is part of what drew Heather Cantero to Oaklantis: "He [Thompson] provides so much opportunity for anybody to swim by having scholarship opportunities, so i think it's a social justice mission," she said.

Oaklantis is a non-profit organization, and relies on fundraising, and grants. Cantero said "it being here in the Oakland flats, that's a lot of work to keep a swim team like this afloat... when you have a swim coach who's working three just to be able to do this." 

Thompson said he does it to share his love of swimming, and to give children a different outlook on life, even when they're not in the pool. "There's a lot of competition in sport, what we want is the kids to have fun competing  and learn how to compete having fun," said Thompson.

In addition to swim team, Oaklantis offers a swim school: Thompson said it's important for children to have that potentially life-saving skill, and it opens up a world of activities in and around the water even if they don't become competitive swimmers.