Meet the SwimJim New York Team

Kutay Agardici
Pronounced KA-TIE, Kutay joined the SwimJim team in early 2016. He excelled on his high school swim team and has worked with children in different capacities his entire life. As a childcare professional and Developmental Psychology major at Hunter College, he is both invested in and fascinated by child development. Kutay is a patient, understanding and motivational instructor we are proud to welcome to the team. 

Ariel Brito
Ariel joined the SwimJim team in May 2019. He is currently a student in college majoring in business. During his free time he likes to play basketball. Ariel has been swimming since he was 10 and as a kid his favorite activities were going to the pool or water parks. He enjoys teaching his students the importance of safe swimming. He believes it’s important to learn how to swim because you’ll never know when you’ll need it to help yourself or others.

Ivan Aranda

Ivan is currently studying for his political science associate’s degree and plans to use his degree to become a history teacher. In his free time, Ivan enjoys cycling, boxing, swimming and working on art projects in several different mediums. He believes that swimming and water safety are important skills to learn and help teach discipline while still being fun!

Sarah Decker

Sarah is from Texas and has loved swimming from the moment she was born. She joined her neighborhood team at age 3 and never looked back. She has been a competitive swimmer since she was 7 and currently swims for Hunter College, where Sarah is getting her bachelor’s degree in Education. She has been teaching kids how to swim since she was 17 and has been invested in making swimming safe, exciting, and confidence-boosting ever since!

Naomi Distant

Naomi is 23 years old and a recent graduate of Aveda Esthetics Institute. Naomi grew up in Jamaica and joined a swim team when she was just three years old! Naomi competitively swam from ages seven to eleven before moving to New York, where she continued to swim for fun and participated in several triathlons. She joined SwimJim in 2019 and after a brief hiatus, she’s back and can’t wait to get back in the pool to teach!

Naomi Fuller

Naomi just moved here from Washington DC. and was the first recipient of her theater scholarship in high school. She currently is a co-author on the anthology “What happens in my house stays in my house”. Her  favorite sport is cheerleading and she has been a cheer coach for two years now. She hopes to use some of those coaching skills to teach water safety!

Allison Furlong

Allie has loved the water since she was a little girl. In her quest to become a mermaid, she became a state championship swimmer. Now she hopes to bring that same passion to children today by teaching that you too can be “Part of that World!”


Rosemary Ghigliotty

Rosemary is a Swim Instructor and Lifeguard Director with SwimJim as well as an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor.  She joined our team in November 2018.  Rosemary discovered her passion for swimming while in High School and swam for the Varsity Team in 2007-2008. While in High School, she was introduced to Lifeguarding as a gym class and found her passion. She understands the importance of swimming as a survival skill and loves to teach those skills to everyone.  She works patiently and gently to build and develop those skills to help the students progress to the next level.

Gaby Greenhill

Gaby has been a swim instructor and lifeguard with SwimJim since we reopened in October 2020, but her passion for swimming began at an early age. She was a competitive swimmer all the way through high school and has been a lifeguard for over 5 years now. While Gaby is no longer competing and is currently a student at The New School, she is still excited to share her love of swimming by teaching kids. Gaby believes that swimming is a vital skill that everyone should learn and is honored to be a role model for her students. She thinks that attending swimming lessons teaches kids more than just the skill of swimming, but also the importance of listening and respecting others.

Victor (Jay) Harris-Rodriguez

Jay is in school online majoring in engineering. He loves filming and editing and lives in the Bronx. He loves swimming because his grandfather taught him how to swim and he was a big inspiration for him. He also believes swimming teaches a lot of discipline and life skills that so many people dearly need.

Mya Huger

Mya is a Harlem-based dancer and choreographer. As a child whenever she went to the beach or pool, she spent her time in the water teaching herself how to swim. Her zodiac sign is Cancer, which she believes has a lot to do with her love of swimming and being in the sea since the sign represents a crab. She values water safety because she recognizes the power of water, which is why she’s so eager to have the experience of sharing her knowledge with those who want to learn. Did you know that only 5% of the ocean has been explored? This fascinates Mya because it demonstrates the power of water and how mysterious it can be in certain ways!

Josephine (Jojo) Kang

Jojo is a California native whose passion for swimming began at an early age. She started taking swimming lessons at the age of six, which led her to swimming competitively all the way through high school. Jojo’s love for the water extends beyond swimming as some of other favorite activities include surfing and wakeboarding. She is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s in Business Management & Economics from the University of California – Santa Cruz. Jojo says one of the many reasons she chose to become a swim instructor was that it allowed her to share her passion with others as well as show her students that the water is not to be feared. Jojo is super excited to be teaching with SwimJim and can’t wait to bring her years of experience and positive energy to the pool on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sera Knobler

Sera is an instructor at SwimJim. She has been swimming competitively for 13 years and lifeguarding since she was 17. She swam on Asphalt Green’s swim team starting at the age of 10 and then went on to swim for Hunter College where she recently graduated. Outside of SwimJim she is currently training to be an EMT. Sera has had a love for the water ever since she was young and is excited to bring that energy to the pool.

Barbara Lora

Barbara has always been a very sporty and active individual. She has participated in activities such as theater, hockey/figure skating, gymnastics, dance and cheer and has a major love for swimming. Her mother was a competitive swimmer in France and a certified swim instructor in Venezuela to which she ensured Barbara would develop those same skills. Children should develop these skills at a young age so that they are not only safe under any circumstance but are also willing to accomplish many more milestones as they grow older. Seeing children accomplish these milestones- whether it’s their first or fifth- makes Barbara happy knowing that she’s propelling them to be their best selves.

Julia Mamone

Julia Mamone is from Astoria, Queens and has been swimming since she was nine years old. She swam in high school and at Hunter college. She recently graduated with her bachelors in human biology and is currently getting her masters in childhood special education at Hunter College.

Juan Ordonez

Juan is an open water swimmer (likely in warm waters) and he is from Ecuador. He completed a 10k Open Water Race finisher back in 2021. He is looking forward to  the next one! He has been a Certified SSI Open Water Scuba Diver since 2012. Currently he is an Entry Level Bodyboarder. He is eager to share the benefits of Swimming with the world.

Neyda Portoviejo

Neyda has been swimming since she was 7 years old and has always really enjoyed it. Before becoming an instructor Neyda has been a hardworking and dedicated lifeguard. Being able to apply what she has learned when teaching kids brings her joy, especially when she  sees their improvements. That is why she is passionate about teaching water safety habits in the water.

Avery Ramasar

Avery loves animals and music. Their favorite sports are swimming, basketball, and skateboarding. They have their CPR and lifeguard certifications. They also have their food handling license because they worked at a bakery before. Avery has been swimming since they were a baby and they feel like they have a lot of skills that they could pass on to help swimmers utilize, and they love working with kids!

Lissette Rivera

Lissette Rivera is a hardworking and dedicated instructor and lifeguard. She is very witty and is always smiling from ear to ear. She recently graduated high-school and is enrolled into The City College Of New York majoring in Psychology. Her love for swimming began when she was just 7 years old taking swim lessons in Monticello, New York. Ever since then she’s had a passion for water. You can catch her guarding on the weekdays and teaching on the weekends. Don’t blink you might miss her!

Azure Savage

Azure is excited to join the SwimJim team because swimming has been a source of joy from a young age and he wants to be able to pass that joy to others. He swam competitively on a club team in Seattle where he grew up, and also swam for his high school team. His favorite events were always sprints of freestyle and butterfly. Currently, he attends The New School for a bachelor’s in psychology and plans to be a therapist for children and teens one day. Working with youth and being in the water combines two of his passions and he couldn’t be more thrilled to work with you!

Cece Smith

Cece joined SwimJim’s team in August of 2021. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Pace University in Mental Health Counseling. Cece grew up spending her summers at the beach where she discovered her love of swimming and all things water. Originally from Maryland, she loves to spend her time outdoors running, hiking, and really anything that gets her outside! Cece loves working with people of all ages, and believes that water safety is one of the most valuable skills you can learn and she is excited to help anyone learn!

Kelli Stryker
Kelli joined the SwimJim team in 2008.  At the age of 3 Kelli was taught how to swim by her uncle and SwimJim Founder and C.E.O, Jim himself. Growing up on a swim team she was awarded many purple participation ribbons but never got gold. Though competitive swimming wasn’t for her, in the long run her love for swimming always remained intact. She obtained a BFA in Musical Theatre from Webster University Conservatory of Fine Arts. Kelli can be seen not only in the pool but in the office as SwimJim’s Director. She has received her Infant/Toddler and Special Abilities certification from the United States Swim School Association as well as trained at AquaPros in San Diego with their Special Needs program.  When Kelli is not at SwimJim she can been seen around the country speaking at conferences, educating other about teaching or management techniques. Teaching swimming and educating people on water safety are some of Kelli’s greatest passions. There is no greater feeling than knowing that you have taught someone a skill that makes them safer in and around the water.

Lindsay Toscano

Lindsay is currently a junior in City College to get a degree in Psychology.Lindsay has a lot of experience in the water and was a part of a swim team for four years, swam about 200 laps for a swim-a-thon, completed lifeguard training, swim recreationally, and much more. Lindsay has many core memories with their swim coaches, and still thinks about how much fun they had together. Lindsay firmly believes having fun in an academic setting can improve students’ skills. Safety is their number one priority to build skills, smiles, and learn how to swim safely!

Bridget Valentin

Bridget is a native New York, who’s love of swimming started at an early age. One of her first jobs was as a lifeguard, which taught her the importance of water safety, and her years of experience as a dance instructor fueled her passion for working with children. Bridget enjoys going to the beach in her free time and can’t wait to bring her energy and positive attitude to lessons on Tuesday afternoons.