Cancer survivor and swimmer Veronica Cappalonga honored by AS
Veronica Cappalonga, an SMC student and dedicated swimmer who has survived leukemia and is now fighting brain cancer, was recognized for her courage by classmates and the Associated Students on Monday morning.
Under an overcast sky that looked like a raging sea, classmates in the Santa Monica College swimming pool clapped in rhythm, chanting "Veronica! Veronica!" as the AS president, Ty Moura, prepared to hand Cappalonga a certificate in honor of her achievements.
The ceremony had been scheduled for last Wednesday, but was postponed because Cappalonga had been scheduled to see a specialist, something she had already spent months waiting for.
Immersed in the serene waters of the pool, with her classmates surrounding her, Cappalonga was addressed by Tara Shima, associate professor of Kinesiology who said “I don’t think you realize Veronica, how many people want to stop, but then they look over and see you, you really have helped them to be better people."
A survivor in her childhood of leukemia at the age of 6, Cappalonga has been diagnosed with brain cancer and has defied the odds and expectancy calculations of doctors.
Cappalonga was helped out of the pool by classmates, including Scott Garvey, a fellow swimming student who was one of the main advocates pushing to award Cappalonga her certificate.
Moura handed Cappalonga her framed award, expressing her own admiration for this impressive survivor.
After her friends and classmates filed by to shake her hand and express their deep respect for her Cappalonga expressed that she was "happy" to receive the AS recognition. For her swimming represents "freedom," which she states by forming words on her palm with a finger.
Rocio Cappalonga, Veronica's mother, was there to be by her daughter's side and by the poolside discussed their journey. "We've used a lot of herbal treatments in addition to regular visits to the doctor," she said.
She revealed how Veronica began swimming at SMC out of high school, at age 18, and after transferring to university and graduating she decided to return to the pool she loved so much. In 2001 the diagnoses came of a brain tumor, and since then every day has been precious.
Now 31, Cappalonga is not only a devotee of this sport, she has become a source of hope for those around her. Less than a year ago she even continued her pool routine with a broken femur injured due to stress produced by chemotherapy.
Maya Kaitel, ICC Vice Chair-elect, was also present at the ceremony and was moved by the proceedings. "If we could find more students on this campus who are even half as inspiring as her, I think it would be amazing for everyone to get to know them, get to meet them, be inspired by them," she said.
"She's just so inspirational," said Garvey, full of emotion. "I've known her for one year. You see somebody come in a wheelchair, who doesn't have complete mobility. You learn about her story and it's just so inspirational," he expressed.
"It's a testament to immortality," he added.
For Cappalonga, the baptismal waters of the SMC pool are her life, a life now honored by the SMC community.