SaraJoy Salib, an intern and former SAMbassador at the LA84 Foundation, poses for a portrait at the Foundations headquarters in Los Angeles. (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)
Arcadia High School

The girl who persevered: SaraJoy Salib

During her younger years, SaraJoy Salib was bullied during ballet practice for her weight. Not only did her peers taunt her, but a trusted teacher refused to let her go on point, informing Salib she looked too heavy.

Before entering high school, her mother introduced her to swimming.

“My mom told me that while you are in a pool, you don’t see how fat, tall, or skinny [someone is]. All you see are heads,” Salib said.

As a level one swimmer, she worked her way up and discovered her enjoyment for springboard diving. Although the mental aspect of endurance was a struggle for Salib, she refused to quit. When she entered high school in Venice, Calif., she began diving, swimming and playing water polo at a competition level.

“Sports has definitely shaped who I am. I became more social and headstrong mainly due to sports. In swimming, you don’t want to do 500 laps, but you keep pushing  yourself and saying one more,” Salib said. “Parents can only shape you so much. Sports drive students and athletes to be who they can be.”

Her swim classes were funded by the LA84 Foundation through a grant they gave to the city of Los Angeles. While speaking at an event for a pool opening, Salib met President and CEO, of the LA84 Foundation, Renata Simril.


SaraJoy (direct center) pictured with president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation Renata Simril (second to last on the right hand side). (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)

Simril encouraged Salib to apply for the SAMbassadors program: a youth advisory board for the LA84 Foundation.

After being accepted, Salib was open to a sea of opportunities. Not only did she join meetings to advise on grants, she was able to speak at events including the Youth Sports Summit and Olympic Day.

Salib realized she wanted to continue working with the LA84 Foundation, even after graduating high school. She firmly believes in what the organization advocates for and represents, so she applied for an internship.

As an intern, Salib is working on digitalizing the 1986 Olympic Games to archive it online. In addition, she creates short videos that explore often neglected, but rather interesting, artifacts from the Olympics.


Salib holding an artifact from the LA84 Foundation’s archives. (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)

“[I want] to show [teens] that as an organization, [LA84] does not just write grants or put on summits, they have more resources than people are aware of,” Salib said.

In her future, Salib plans to pursue surgery, albeit she has not forgotten the path which got her there.

“Backstage before a submit, I was having a conversation with one of the athletes and I realized something,” Salib said. “Simply because I took those swim lessons, I was able to meet amazing people who got me to that exact place and moment.”


This story was produced through the HS Insider summer internship program which is supported by funding from LA84 Foundation.