Making a Positive Impact

Teresa Draves photo

By Audra Nemirow

At the time of this interview, Washington College senior Teresa Draves had not been officially inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, not yet. However, she already prizes her upcoming membership. She has long been aware of the prestige of her future induction, but more importantly, she actively aligns herself with the organization’s central values.

“I think that the invitation to be in the Society is really, really important, not just academically but character wise,” Draves said. “I don’t have a 4.0 or anything like that, but I also like to think that I do a lot on campus and try to help people the best I can and was kind of a leader for some people.”

Draves has structured her educational journey around this desire to lead. With her current experience as a sociology major with a concentration in justice, law, and society and minors in psychology and political science, Draves has decided to continue her studies by going to law school. By becoming a lawyer, Draves hopes to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

But to college sports fans, Draves has already made a significant impact. She has been a captain on the Washington College swim team for about two years, and her many personal accomplishments, including the 400 individual medley and 200 breaststroke records for her school, have made her something of a star.

Swimming has always been a significant part of Draves’s life, starting when her father coached her and her three siblings. For Draves, the competitive aspect of swimming is certainly important, as it has allowed her to push past her perceived limitations. She earned her records, for example, post-pandemic, an amazing feat.

“Even just a week out of the water [makes it] really difficult to come back and do well,” Draves said. “[During the pandemic], I had not swum for the longest in my life, since I was little. That was really, really hard and honestly made me question things a little bit. I thought I was never going to swim again competitively.”

This was especially difficult for Draves because swimming is more than a sport to her. It is also an identity, a way of life that extends beyond the pool. It inspires her to be a better student and a better human being.

“You never stop learning,” Draves said. “There is always something you can do better, and I think that’s how it is in life too . . . constantly trying to be a better version of yourself.”

Draves’s academic work ethic is inseparable from her as an athlete; any discussion of Draves’s overall success at Washington College destroys the clichés about the supposed differences between academically inclined students and student athletes. In Draves’s case, a commitment to swimming only enriched her academic experience, as it gave her the skills to succeed. She found herself able to balance academics and sports in the context of a liberal arts institution like Washington College.

“[Swimming] definitely taught me a lot of self-discipline, hard work, and also time management,” Draves said. “I like to think that I’m a very hard-working person because of the work that I put in at the pool. Then I apply that to my classes as well, and hopefully throughout life too.”

And as a captain, Draves helps others become their best selves, offering her peers guidance on swimming as well as on more personal matters.

“I think this year we did a really, really great job of lifting each other up and making sure we were all working hard,” she said. “And that made me really, really happy to see, and I’m really, really excited to see where the team can go from here because I see, possibly in the future, maybe some championship wins.”

During her years at Washington College, Draves has learned how to build and maintain a sense of community, how to create connections with like-minded, driven peers. As she embarks on her next phase of life, Draves’s Phi Beta Kappa induction will surely build on the sense of community that she has already taken the initiative to create.

Audra Nemirow is a senior at Hofstra University, where she is majoring in film studies and production. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2021. Hofstra University is home to the Omega of New York chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.