Student Chases His Dream One Meet (and Lap) at a Time

Jared Miller, 12, with coach Solomon Robinson. Jared recently won five events at the 22nd annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet.
Jared Miller, 12, with coach Solomon Robinson. Jared recently won five events at the 22nd annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet. (By Furman Marshall)
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By Alex Remington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jared Miller, 12, has been swimming since he was 4, a fixture in pools across Southeast Washington and Maryland. He has become a standout in the region, most recently in February at the 22nd annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet in the District, where he won five events. Now, he has a new honor to add to his growing list of accomplishments. He was recently one of 15 young people ages 9 to 12 from across the country chosen to receive a Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream scholarship.

Jared's parents, Mike and Deborah Miller, found out about the scholarship and applied through the Boys & Girls Club that Jared attends at Orr Elementary School in Southeast. This is the first year that the organization is administrating the program, collaborating with the Aaron foundation and Major League Baseball Charities. Jared plans to use the $2,500 scholarship to help pay for the equipment and entry fees necessary for competitive youth swimming.

The sport can get expensive. No-drag trunks are $100. The entry fee for each event at a meet can cost up to $10, pricey for a swimmer of Jared's versatility. At the Black History Invitational, he entered six events, winning five and coming in second once. Going to out-of-town meets means money for transportation, food and hotels for him and his parents. And every swimmer needs a coach. All those fees add up.

Jared is an honors student at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, a new public charter school, and swims with Team Elite, a team made up mostly of African American youth from the District. More than 250,000 youth swimmers are registered with USA Swimming. Of those who identify themselves by ethnicity, fewer than 2 percent are black. Team Elite Coach Solomon Robinson moved the team's practice facility to Southeast Washington two years ago to attract more inner-city youths.

When Jared practices -- two hours a day, three days a week -- one or both of his parents are poolside to cheer him on. Jared's inspiration is his older brother, David, a sophomore architecture student at University of Maryland Eastern Shore who set all the family records when he was a high school swimmer. Jared says he is "trying to beat him" before he turns 15. Both Jared and David started swimming through D.C. Parks & Recreation, where Jared met Robinson, his coach. Robinson, a former Olympic swimming hopeful, invited Jared to join Team Elite.

Jared also studies tae kwon do twice a week, even practicing it for an hour on swim nights. He started in September and is a yellow belt. His interest in martial arts, like his interest in swimming, came from his sister Laura, 10, who started martial arts to branch out from the family sport of swimming.

On weekends, Jared remains busy. His mother proudly notes that he's an usher at his church, and many Saturdays and Sundays are occupied by swim meets. Much of the rest of his time is spent on honors homework assignments. Again following his brother David, he wants to go to college and study architectural engineering. "I like to build stuff," he said.

His parents are government employees who have kept Jared in the D.C. school system. "I'm a big believer in public education," Deborah Miller said. When Jared attended Orr Elementary, the only school in the District with an on-site Boys & Girls Club, he took part in a club after-school program. After he graduated and moved on to Howard, Jared continued attending the Orr Boys & Girls Club, participating in activities and playing on the basketball and baseball teams.

Jared can reapply for the scholarship every year until he graduates from high school, and stay in the water without worrying about the cost.

And that's exactly where he wants to be, at least until he breaks his brother's records.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company