Las Vegas, Nev.----- Kayla Nakamoto, a senior on the San Jose State University women's swimming and diving team, is one of 11 student-athletes honored by the Mountain West for community service participation as a member of the first All-MW Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Community Service Team.
The award recognizes one student-athlete at each of the conference's 11 members for excelling in community service activities.
"I enjoy working with others and I do it for the intrinsic reward of seeing others make personal improvements. I really enjoy making a difference in other people's lives," says Nakamoto, a butterfly specialist and distance freestyle swimmer for the Spartans.
In the last year, the recreation major with a concentration in recreation therapy from Roseville, Calif., served as a volunteer at San Jose's Grace Community Center; the Palo Alto, Calif., chapter of Special Olympics; and the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara.
At the Grace Community Center less than a mile from the San José State campus, she encounters people with mental disabilities and works with them in the areas of therapeutic fitness and art programs.
As a Special Olympics volunteer, she coaches swimming, basketball, floor hockey, soccer and bowling.
For the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara, Nakamoto is involved in therapeutic recreation for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
"I truly enjoy helping other people and watching them grow. I really like the community of volunteers that I work with as well as the participants," adds Nakamoto, who aspires to become an occupational therapist. "When I work with younger populations, their parents often come and are always so thankful and appreciative. That also makes me want to continue doing it."
As a San José State swimmer, Nakamoto ranks #9 on the Spartans' all-time list in the 200 butterfly with a 2:04.74 time. She scored points for the Spartan teams that won 2012 and 2013 Western Athletic Conference championships.
For nearly four years, Nakamoto delicately juggled the demands of a student-athlete's life, realized success in a rigorous academic curriculum and managed to effectively make a difference in several Santa Clara County communities.
"Finding practice times or program times that fit my schedule can get very tricky. However, the agencies were usually more than helpful and understanding and worked a schedule around my swimming, work and school," says the 2014 Mountain West Scholar-Athlete. Nakamoto also was named to the Mountain West All-Academic team her junior year, a 2013 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar award winner and to the Western Athletic Conference All-Academic teams as a freshman and a sophomore.