They went through weeks of undulating blue horizons and the smell of salt lingering in the air and crowded corridors and foul-smelling food, all so they could dock in Lady Liberty’s waters.
The American dream is depicted in countless tales, but for one reason or another, the immigrants who crossed the pond to land on Ellis Island have continued to remain relevant.
Though Ellis Island is now closed, Coppell High School sophomore Yassin Helaly’s American dream is still being characterized by hopeful waters. Helaly, the current record holder of the one-meter dive on the Coppell diving team, moved to the United States from Egypt to realize his dream of earning a diving scholarship at an American university.
Helaly moved to Coppell at the end of last year, and though he placed fifth and shattered the school record during regionals, he is far from satisfied.
“Next year, I can easily go to state and get first,” Helaly said. “I’m going to be working on myself even harder for next year.”
Helaly’s ambition has not gone unnoticed by those around him. Coppell coach Marieke Mastebroek views Helay’s mindset as one of his strengths.
“He is an ambitious guy with a very competitive mindset, it’s rare to see that,” Mastebroek said. “While many other people don’t do well under pressure and panic and fail, Helaly does.”
Helaly’s mother moved with him originally and his father is in the process of obtaining a green card. Though sacrifices were made in the chase for better education and diving opportunities, Helaly believes it has not been in vain.
“I feel like it was worth it,” Helaly said. “I’m getting good grades, I have a school record and I’m learning things I never thought I would learn. It’s a big sacrifice but I’ll make it worthy.”
To ensure that next year holds brighter results, Helaly will train in Egypt during the summer with his former coaches to work on new dives.
“My coaches in Egypt know how I function and how my dives work,” Helaly said. “They’re going to help me learn new dives so I can set the school record higher and higher and win state.”
Being that he is the sole diver on the Coppell team, Helaly does not practice with the rest of the swim team at the Coppell YMCA. Instead, he practices with Dallas Metroplex Diving at SMU. However, this has not stopped him from becoming an integrated member of the Coppell team.
“Every now and then, [Helaly] will come to do drylands with us and go to the weight room with us,” Coppell sophomore swimmer Scott Moyer said. “Sometimes he’ll even come to a swim practice to swim with us even though he isn’t very good. It’s just really fun to have him there.”
The swimming and diving team holds many team dinners and events, but much of his quick adaptation is a product of Helaly’s own work.
“He has had the best integration I have ever seen and a lot of that comes from him,” Mastebroek said. “He made friends right away and is very supportive of the swimmers.”
Helaly has had to adjust to very different circumstances, but he has never been fazed by the pressure of moving to a new country.
“I didn’t have much pressure when I moved here,” Helaly said. “In Egypt, we compete nationally, it’s a big thing. I’m used to the pressure I experienced in Egypt.”
As Helaly continues to carve out his American dream, his Dutch coach wants him to remember to rest so he may reach the goals he has proudly proclaimed.
“My advice to Helaly is ‘Don’t burn the candle at both ends’ because it’s a long ride,” Mastebroek said. “Training can be brutal and he is a sophomore with seven years to go. I would tell him to pace himself, emphasize recovery, sleep and eat well so that he can continue to improve in college.”
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