Amalia Kobelja, '14
Scholar-athlete excels in the pool, classroom, community
August 11, 2012
On July 17 the Atlantic 10 Conference named Amalia Kobelja, ’14, the female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in recognition of her achievements in the pool and classroom. She’s also a standout in the community.
Not only was Kobelja’s Atlantic 10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award the first to go to a University of Richmond student, but it was also the first to go to a swimmer in the history of the conference. At February’s Atlantic 10 championship, Kobelja garnered seven gold medals in individual medley, breaststroke, and relays on her way to becoming the meet’s Most Outstanding Performer.
Despite long hours spent at practice and meets, the Fort Wayne, Ind., native maintains a 3.75 GPA as a biology major and education minor. And she finds time to volunteer in the community several times a week.
“I feel passionate about being successful at school,” Kobelja said. “But other things are also priorities—sports, church, volunteering. Being involved in a variety of ways forces you to put things in perspective.
“It’s important for me to be out in the community because that contributes to my education.
“At first I was pre-med, but once I started volunteering in schools, I decided I wanted to be a high school biology teacher.”
During spring semester of freshman year, Kobelja volunteered at John Marshall High School in Northside Richmond with the College Mentoring Project—now Pathways to a College Experience (PACE)—a college-access program coordinated by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE).
“While volunteering, I met Christina D’Angelo, a UR graduate and a teacher at John Marshall,” Kobelja said. “She talked about how much she loved her job, and this planted a seed in my mind.”
Kobelja continued volunteering her sophomore year with PACE at John Marshall. She also started volunteering as a Higher Achievement mentor and tutor at the adjoining Henderson Middle School through Build It, the CCE’s neighborhood-based civic-engagement program.
“I was excited about working in the same community with the same group of people” Kobelja said.
Carpooling with other Build It volunteers to and from Henderson gave Kobelja a chance to reflect on her experience.
“How are your kids doing? we’d ask each other,” Kobelja said. “We learned so much about the kids and what makes them click. We learned a lot about ourselves too.”
Education classes, such as Diverse Learners and Environments taught by Dr. Mavis Brown, also contributed to Kobelja’s learning.
“UR professors give us resources that allow us to get to the depths of the issues,” Kobelja said. “Dr. Brown brought in a lot of different educators as speakers.
“I remember one speaker telling us: ‘You’re not there to be their friend. You’re there to teach them. If they like you, it’s a bonus.’
“I’ve found that if you have high standards for your students, they’ll end up liking you.”
Kobelja is all about high standards—for herself and others.
In addition to volunteering at two public schools, Kobelja volunteers with her Northside Richmond church. She and her Women’s Swim and Dive teammates also teach swimming and water safety to underserved children enrolled in an after-school program with the Youth Life Foundation of Richmond, a Northside Richmond nonprofit and Build It community partner.
“Mali's greatest strength is her ability to put others first,” said Matt Barany, head coach of the Women’s Swim Team. “That's pretty impressive for a young woman who is still developing as a student and swimmer.”
Photo: Amalia Kobelja tutoring Higher Achievement scholar DeAndre Moon at Henderson Middle School