Redwood water polo coach escapes Alcatraz to raise money for scholarship

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Two close friends and three of his current water polo players swam alongside Rogers last Saturday, September 25: Jackson Coon finished in 31:10, Nate Bettencourt finished in 32:22; and Jayce Ford finished in 33:32.

For a foundation that raises around $ 6,000 in a typical year, finding a way to raise roughly the same amount during the pandemic is successful. Rogers insists that no part of the money goes to board members or administrative costs. Everything goes to the recipients.

“A lot of scholarships go through Redwood High School because we have a lot of bright kids in socio-economic difficulty there. And we’ve worked with Woodlake the last few years as well, because they’ve had some amazing students who are dreamers and struggle to get funds, ”Rogers said.

In addition to handing out traditional college scholarships, Rogers said they give out one or two technical scholarships per year. In the past, the scholarship has helped pay for a woman to become a court reporter. Another year the scholarship helped pay for a single mother’s tuition in cosmetology. And other times, the fund will donate to a “bad luck” story about a family going through tough times and struggling to get by.

“It’s so nice to be able to say, ‘you know, here’s $ 500 or here’s $ 1,000 to spend on your cause,’ Rogers said.

Rogers said he launched the fund almost immediately after Natalie passed away. At the funeral, the family asked for donations to set up the purse, instead of flowers. It took a few years for the scholarship to “become legitimate” and file documents under the name of Natalie Claussen-Rogers Scholarship Fund.

The motivation behind the scholarship was to turn Natalie’s memory into action. According to Rogers, as a forensic psychologist, Natalie resisted the worst society had to offer and offered protection to the most vulnerable, abused and mentally ill children. He said his heart was endless, and his good works were large.

In her obituary published in The Fresno Bee, Natalie was not just a forensic psychologist, she was Tulare County’s leader in the matter. She was instrumental in the functioning of the Mental Health Court, where the mentally ill were separated from prison populations and received the care and treatment necessary to end much of their conflict. She also started programs that allowed this same population to help and give them pride and self-esteem.

“She was just full of passion. She was such a smart girl, ”said Rogers. “You know, everyone becomes an angel when they die. But I mean, she really was an angel here. And so we started this [scholarship] continue to do a good job on its behalf.

Any other year, unrestricted by COVID-19, Rogers and the scholarship volunteers would host a poker tournament and accept the generosity of local businesses like Bueno Beverage who have helped them raise funds in the past. Obviously, this year forced Rogers back into the water.

It was the second time that he had worn the inmate’s cap and uniform. And if you’re wondering if denim gets heavy when soaked in water, the short answer is yes. But Rogers said he’s always been a good swimmer. “I mean, I’ve always been the one to brag if I fell off a cruise ship 20 miles away, I would make it ashore,” Rogers said.

Five years ago, in his last swim, Rogers said he jumped without training at all and did so in under an hour. But Father Time comes for everyone and at 51 he got to work. Rogers swam three to five days a week in preparation for last weekend’s swim.

“The last time I did this at 45, I did it without training at all in 57 minutes. This swim, I trained for it… and it’s no joke that we start to lose that natural youthful strength at 50. But I still made it to shore, ”said Rogers.


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