Talk about world-class. While the 2012 Summer Olympics have shown the world some amazing swimmers, the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships have their own world-class swimmer: Melissa Karjala.
On July 27, Melissa, who’s a 2011 W.K. Kellogg Foundation-Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellow, helped set a new world record for a two-way crossing of the English Channel by a six-woman relay team. The women swam the 42 miles across the Channel and back in 18 hours and 55 minutes—4 minutes faster than the previous record, according to the Detroit Free Press. And they did it just hours after the opening of the Olympics themselves.
But Melissa and her team didn’t just swim for glory. They took on the challenge in honor of their friend and neighbor, University of Michigan professor Bob Schoeni, who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2008. The swim served as a fundraiser for Schoeni’s Ann Arbor-based ALS foundation, A2A3. Melissa’s team is still accepting donations towards their $120,000 goal at www.channelforals.org. You can watch an interview with Melissa and three of her teammates online at Swimming World Magazine.
Melissa did master’s work in education this past year as a Fellow at Eastern Michigan University. She’s a former captain and All-American for the women’s water polo team at U-M, where she completed both her undergrad degree and a master’s in public health.
Now Melissa is gearing up to teach biology as a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow. Never mind what she knows about biomechanics and marine environments—imagine world-record determination in a classroom with kids. That’s guaranteed gold.
We’re proud of you, Melissa!