Grabowski's Passion 100 Percent to Help Elementary Students, Community

If there was a jersey number for Torero alumna softball player Mary Grabowski to wear now, it should be 100. Perhaps it could be that popular social media emoji that signifies being in total agreement percentage-wise. For Grabowski, 100 percent stands for the passion, dedication and positive attitude she brings to whatever she’s doing. There's a little flair with that emoji, too — a few underlines for emphasis. Grabowski’s emphasis is on being present.

Mary Grabowski

The 2016 University of San Diego alumna was a four-year catcher, a team captain, a president for USD Athletics' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), co-leader of a student Bible study group, and was always energized for community engagement opportunities while at USD.

"I truly believe if you have a loving community you're involved in, you have everything you need," the Liberal Studies undergraduate major says at the end of a short biography on the website of her current employer, Mueller Charter School.

She's the Chula Vista-based K-8 school's middle school athletics director and a K-6 physical education (P.E.) teacher. She coaches Mueller's middle school softball team and assists her father with the varsity softball program at nearby Bayfront Charter High School. As for community engagement now, she's the president of a nonprofit organization called Sawubona, which offers services for the less fortunate, including a popular program started when she was still at USD called Pancake Peeps to feed and support San Diego's homeless population. Additional services and partnerships have expanded her organization’s reach and impact.

“It’s a word from the African Zulu language that means, ‘I see you,’” Grabowski says of Sawubona. “To me it stands for everything a person is, who you are and who you can become. You are known. We want people to know they are loved and that they have a purpose.”

With these many responsibilities, you'd have to be Mary Grabowski because it takes all the energy and love she caringly puts into it to make it happen. Oh yeah, she's also enrolled in USD's School of Leadership and Education Sciences' online master's in education degree program and is scheduled to graduate in January 2021.

About the only thing that would seem to slow Grabowski is working around the current COVID-19 pandemic. The very serious coronavirus has changed lives and has altered the pace of life for everyone in the United States and globally. It has forced people to quarantine, states have implemented stay-at-home measures to cut down on spreading the virus and it has brought the phrase social distancing into the mainstream lexicon.

The COVID-19 pandemic, in just two-plus months, has changed how education is taught, going from an in-person, classroom set-up to parents doing home schooling and schools doing distance learning online. While it was a transition initially, Grabowski's enthusiasm and ability to work with school staff colleagues set the wheels in motion for what Mueller has done.

Grabowski developed a Google website, a YouTube channel (see introductory video), and Instagram and TikTok accounts to reach Mueller students and help them stay active and healthy during the pandemic. There are essential question videos she does requiring students to respond to Grabowski with a short video.

There has been a six-day weekly routine called "Home PE with Coach G" she introduced in April. Monday's activity has students practicing a different sports skill with items found at home. Tuesdays she shares a fun activity students can do alone or with family members to be active. Wednesday involves stretches to work on flexibility. Thursday offers activities centered around the heart and build students' character. Friday focuses on using heavier household items for strength training. Saturday is a bonus day for cardio exercises. Sunday is a day of rest.

"I'm really lucky that P.E. has become such an outlet for the kids," Grabowski says of the reaction the online programming is receiving.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, her biggest “problem” was students not wanting to leave a Zoom class meeting. Grabowski said students got on the call early and wanted to stay on and talk to their friends longer because they missed the social interaction, she said.

She understands, too. In two weeks, school will be out for the summer at Mueller. Grabowski's passion to support and help others likely won't stop. She'll probably do some volunteering in San Diego or will promote the Kindness Candles on Sawubona’s website that raise funds for projects done side-by-side with her mother and role model, Gabriela, and Mary's younger sister, Joanna, who just graduated from USD with a degree in English and also aspires to teach.

It's just a natural for Grabowski to be present and active in life.

"It's just in our spirit to be involved," Mary says. "The things I'm doing are always about going all-out."

100 percent.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Video courtesy of Mary Grabowski

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