Upcoming International Adventures for this Athlete

My Y Story: Gabriella Rizzuto

Gabriella Rizzuto

My Y Story: STORM Swimmer Gabriella Rizzuto

For three years STORM swimmer Gabriella Rizzuto drove from Brookline, NH, to Worcester, Mass., when she swam competitively for the Greenwood Swimming out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her mother, Cindy LaCroix drove the one hour each way to and from practice daily. “This got to be a lot. My mom suggested we look at teams a bit closer to home,” and it’s then where she found the STORM team “which has the best coaches from the teams we checked out. This was also the best fit with my school schedule and gave swimmers the most time in the water, as well,” she said.

Gabriella gravitated to swimming as her sport of choice. ”I think it gives you a chance to be active, getting the exercise that you want, but it’s a team thing. You encourage and support each other. Swimming can be seen as an individual sport, but really it’s about helping teammates – through relays and supporting one another as athletes and as competitors,” she said.

A junior at Hollis-Brookline High School now, Gabriella has been part of the STORM team for four years and competes primarily in breast stroke – individual medley and freestyle.

“It’s a really great experience. When I first joined I was shocked at how welcoming and easy it was to make friends. It was a new environment for me and everyone was very friendly. I’m still friends with some of my teammates I met early on. Outside of swim team, we are friends. We get ice cream together, play mini golf and take beach trips in the summer. It’s nice to have teammates that are friends, too, not just people you exercise with,” she said.

This summer, Gabrielle embarks on an experience of a lifetime. She was accepted to Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program, where she will spend her senior year of high school in Belgium. She applied and interviewed through the local Rotary District 7870, which encompasses Southern New Hampshire and Vermont.

“Doing an exchange program has always been something in the back of my mind that I’ve wanted to do. I was initially thinking of a college study abroad program. When I learned that Rotary has an opportunity for a two-week option in high school, I initially considered this. Once I learned more about the Rotary Club’s Exchange opportunities, I decided I wanted to do a full year. I’m excited and nervous!,” she said.

At first, Gabriella was interested in France as her destination. “The big reason I want to do this is for language immersion. I want to eventually be fluent in French. I decided on Belgium because the country is a bit more diverse. They are French speaking, but also Dutch and German. It’s a little more centrally located in Europe, and around more countries that I would be able to visit,” Gabriella said.

Gabriella Rizzuto

Gabriella took eight years of French classes from elementary school through high school. She also took Latin.

“I’m really excited to meet the people. I have never left the country and haven’t had the opportunity to experience different cultures and be fully immersed. It will be exciting to be fully immersed with other students. It’s not a tourist visit, it’s something that I will be able to fully experience as a teenager in Belgium.”

The family she will be living with lives in a small village outside of the capital city of Wallonia, which is in the southern region of Belgium. Her host family has three kids: Grace who will be away in Mexico as an exchange student, an older son who goes to University of Brussels, and a 7-year-old daughter who is in elementary school.

Gabriella and her family were excited to have their first FaceTime meeting in late May with the family she will be living with.

Also on the forefront for Gabriella is the opportunity to volunteer at the XXXIII Olympic Summer Games in Paris, July 26 to August 11.  Out of hundreds of thousands of applicants, her application has moved to the next round of reviews and she will learn later this year how she may be able to contribute to the Olympic Games in Paris.  “After my exchange program is done in mid-July, I hope to travel to Paris and volunteer at the Olympics for a few weeks before I come back home.”, she said.

As part of the Rotary rules, Gabriella cannot have any visitors until after April of 2024. She hopes to have her Dad and Grandmother visit her while in Belgium.

Gabriella said she would love to swim in Belgium during her year there and in college, as well. Once she gets settled, she will explore options to continue her passion of swimming.

“If I can’t commit to D3 or D2 college, I would want to do club-level or intramural level, because I don’t want to drop swimming completely. I love it.”

She expects to study architectural history and historic preservation in college. “Last year I found a love for history after doing AP world history at school. I got to explore that and different cultures and trade. A trip to Newport, Rhode Island, further spurred my interest in the history in architecture and how it evolved. Over the past two years, my interest has grown.”

Gabriella RizzutoMany may know Gabriella’s mom as a dedicated STORM swim volunteer. “She’s really amazing honestly. She’s been so supportive and so helpful with everything I’ve dreamed of doing and wanted to do. She’s driven me to every practice and meets. She’s been super helpful and supportive of my exchange year. She will be sad for me to go and she wants me to pursue my dreams and do what I want to do. She will be there for me, on the sidelines cheering. I just love her for it. She’s been there for me through everything,” Gabriella said.

Gabriella, your Y family will also be cheering for you while on your international adventures!

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