Oakland, CA–February 07, 2017
Mills College student Melissa Berkay was named one of four national finalists for the prestigious Wooden Cup award by Athletes for a Better World, an honor bestowed on an outstanding athlete role model each year.
Berkay, a swimmer who is committed to social justice issues, made school history by qualifying for the NCAA national championships last year, set a world record as the first woman to cross the 20.2 mile Catalina Channel swimming only the butterfly stroke, and was named to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America’s Scholar All America team for achieving a GPA of 3.5 or higher and for excelling as an athlete.
Her world record swim across the Catalina Channel raised money for non-profit organizations that aid the homeless and affordable housing.
Once homeless, Berkay came to Mills as a transfer student. In her first semester on the swim team, she set six Mills College records and set a Liberal Arts Championship swim meet record in the 200-yard butterfly competition.
“She exudes optimism in the face of adversity and possesses unyielding inner strength that enables her to tackle challenges with boundless energy, whether in the classroom, athletic arena or on the streets,” noted Mills Director of Athletics Themy Adachi.
The Wooden Cup award will be presented April 11 in Atlanta. The award is named after John Wooden, who, as coach of the UCLA basketball team from 1964 to 1975, won ten national championships and who emphasized the importance of character development and community service among his players.