April 30, 2014 - Not many 16 year-olds get to fly to another state and speak as a guest-member panelist and "rub elbows" with a group of nationwide company execs or former sports "big-wigs," but Oxford High School Junior Tyler Kwapis is one of those few.
Oxford High School junior Tyler Kwapis speaks as a panelist at Sony Open. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
As one of only 10 youth council members for the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program (FUTP60), the opportunities for Kwapis have been many. "FUTP60 is a program founded by the National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with USDA that empowers students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school. Students can win cool prizes, like an NFL player visit or Super Bowl tickets, for choosing good-for-you foods and getting active for at least 60 minutes every day."
Kwapis's most recent adventure took him to the Tennis Sony Open in Miami Florida, March 25-27, where he sat on a panel alongside two other FUTP60 students and Executives Steve Peck and Jenni Lewis from SAP, one of the world's largest technology companies, as well as Former Tennis world number 4 and Olympic Gold Medalist and current Fed Cup Captain and ESPN Broadcaster Mary Joe Fernandez, and CEO of GenYOUth Foundation Alexis Glick.
"The Sony Open environment was a different one. I am not a huge tennis fan, but I learned to be that day," noted Kwapis. "It was cool to experience a different sport, one that I'm not used to."
While there, Kwapis was shown the current technology that SAP is using to better players in the world of tennis.
"The technology they are using in tennis right now is really in depth. Picture heat maps of the best players, live replays, placement of returns on the first serve and many more features in the palm of your hand," Kwapis said. "It was very, very cool to see how much technology is put into sports."
(As a panel) we were talking about how we can take that technology and kind of dial it back a bit and broaden it up to bring it to high school students and into the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program," he added.
As an example, Kwapis said the technology he liked the most is called the "sentimental analysis," which allows spectators to comment on the game (through their phone) on good or bad calls while it is happening right in front of them.
"I thought this was incredible and could be used with Fuel Up to Play 60 across the nation. Imagine if we had an app where as we tried new 'plays' or brand new ideas in the school systems; students could respond back to their Fuel Up to Play 60 committee right there," Kwapis continued. "I personally believe that this could make the program better as a whole by making it more efficient. Now, instead of students writing out a survey and turning it in, they can post comments on how the play could be changed or what could make it better. I believe that this kind of technology has the potential to change both the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and the way that schools work as far as student feedback."
Kwapis originally got involved in FUTP60 when he was in sixth grade. Current High School Assistant Principal Dacia Beazley thought he would make a good ambassador for the program and urged him to sign-up and put an application in online.
"Never did I think that out of thousands of students I was going to be selected (as an ambassador)," he said. "There were only nine students selected across the country and I was lucky enough to be one of them."
He also "climbed the ranks" from National Ambassador to Alumni Ambassador where he has taken on more of a mentoring role and is now a Youth Council Member, where he helps coordinate the annual Fuel Up to Play 60 Summer Summit, which is to be held in Texas this year.
"Public speaking and just speaking skills in general have definitely improved since I joined this program, as well as different leadership qualities," Kwapis explained. "I can stand up in front of a group of people now and say 'this is what we need to get done, this is how I want to do it, what do you guys think?'"
Beazley noted that Kwapis has not only represented FUTP60 well, but he's also been a great ambassador for Oxford. "He is a special, special kid. I don't know of another student in my career that I can think of that I would nominate to do this and taken it as far as Tyler has," she added. "He is just pretty unique."
As for future plans, Kwapis is currently looking at going to college for nursing, as well as continuing to be involved in the FUTP60 Program, which he has been very thankful to be apart of.
"I never thought that I would have been doing all these trips and speaking to people of these national corporations," he said. "It just goes to show that the small things add up to big things."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.