- Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 14:08
- Published on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 14:07
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YMCA Executive Director Elizabeth Clark has spearheaded a new swim program that has the potential of saving lives. In an effort to combat accidental drowning in the area, the King George YMCA in conjunction
with King George School Board superintendent Robert Benson is bringing the YMCA Learn to Swim program to second-grade students at Potomac Elementary.
“Every child should learn to swim—drowning is the second cause of accidental deaths among children,” Clark said.
In order to make the program a reality, King George YMCA Aquatics Director Vicki King has assembled and coordinated efforts from numerous coaches and swim volunteers. “We are surrounded by water (Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers) in this county, and we have to do something to protect the kids,” King said.
“We work with each group, no matter what their level is. Our goal is to improve their skills while focusing on water safety. At the end of six weeks, we may not get kids to know how to swim, but we would like to teach them how to float or tread water if they fell into the pool.”
From the moment the classes begin to the final swim stroke, kids are inundated with a variety of lessons that include the use of flotation devices to learning how to float on their backs. “One of the things from an educational standpoint is that they learn to swim, and they pick up skills that they thought they never had,” said Ken Novell, King George School Board representative and founder of the King George High School and Rappahannock Swim League. “Some were afraid when they started the class, but they found that swimming gives them a great amount of confidence.”
In light of the tragic occurrences of drownings in the area every year, the YMCA Learn to Swim program hopes to provide the necessary emergency skills that will save lives. “They (the King George School Board) felt that seven-year-olds do not have the swimming skills that they should have,” Potomac Elementary second-grade teacher and Dahlgren Sharks head swim coach Elizabeth Guthrie said. “We divided it up with kids with and without swim experience. I believe kids will develop a better appreciation for swimming, and I can get some of them on my swim team as a result. Most of the kids are finding it’s more fun than they thought.”
The classes take place Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The classes are composed of 50 second-graders from Potomac Elementary School. From January through February, the program will spread to King George Elementary School, and from March through April, kids from Sealston Elementary will benefit from the program.
“Both Elizabeth (Clark) and I agree that living where we do (between two rivers), and with water-related activities being very accessible for our students, teaching a potentially lifesaving skill makes sense, particularly when we do so as a school-community partnership. The six lessons are offered at no cost, and are available to students with parental permission,” Benson said.