100 first grade students from Knights Elementary School will be provided with free lessons during Water Safety Month.
A donation made by a member of the Plant City community who wishes to remain anonymous has allowed the Plant City YMCA to proved swim lessons and water safety lessons to 100 first grade students at Knights Elementary this month, along with providing in-person safety around water lessons to the school’s second grade and kindergarten students.
The donation came in the form of $10,000 and lessons will be provided to the students in three different time slots throughout the entirety of this week and next, while YMCA staff members will head to Knights Elementary later in the month. While each group of students is in the pool for their lessons, the other groups will enjoy the YMCA’s playground area or lunch.
“We’re just trying to build their endurance and building their confidence,” said Mark Foster, Plant City YMCA’s Aquatics Director. “The more comfortable that we can get them, along with instilling good values and the importance of following rules, hopefully the safer they’ll be in the water.”
Florida leads the nation in deaths attributed to drowning, and the YMCA is striving to ensure that they can help as many children as possible learn safety around water at a young age. Case studies have shown that participation in formal swim lessons was associated with an 88 percent reduction in the risk of drowning for children aged one to four years old.
The YMCA’s lessons include “swim, float, swim,” and “jump, push, turnaround and grab,” techniques that teach swimmers how to stay afloat if they become tired while swimming and how to remain calm and exit the water if they were to fall in.
“We were beyond ecstatic from the second we started getting an inkling that this could happen, to the meetings, from, “can this happen’ to, ‘oh my goodness, it’s actually happening,’” Foster said. “I spoke with an administrator from Knights Elementary yesterday and the students were just glowing when they got back to school, they were so excited. It’s just a great opportunity to change a child’s life this way and to see those changes, even in such a short period of time.”
In addition, the Plant City YMCA offers swim lessons all year round and will be offering a two-day program focused on water safety at the end of May. The program will be free of charge, however spaces are limited.
“The kids are so excited,” said Tammy Walton, a second grade teacher at Knights Elementary. “All they can talk about is their swimming lessons and the parents are excited. They love it and they’re learning really great, life-saving skills which is awesome. And I was surprised by how many of them didn’t know how to swim… We live in Florida with all of this water around us so I think every child should learn how to swim by the time that they’re four or five years old, I think this is really important.”
Last year 13,960 children learned how to swim and be safe around water through the Tampa YMCA. For more information on programs offered by the Tampa YMCA or to find your local YMCA, visit www.tampaymca.org.