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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 9:16 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 
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Dozens of Adams Elementary Schoolers Gain Water Safety Skills Through Santa Barbara Family YMCA

Sixth grade students from Adams Elementary School smile between laps as they gain confidence in their swimming abilities during their final Learn to Swim lesson. Click to view larger
Sixth grade students from Adams Elementary School smile between laps as they gain confidence in their swimming abilities during their final Learn to Swim lesson. (Santa Barbara Family YMCA photo)

More than 70 sixth grade students at Adams Elementary School learned valuable water safety skills this month through a partnership with the Santa Barbara Family YMCA.

“If you don’t teach these kids before they enter junior high, they’re going to have developed so much fear and lack of self-confidence and self-esteem that they’re just not going to learn to swim,” said Julie Churchman, a physical education teacher at Adams Elementary and past swim instructor. 

Not only does not knowing how to swim limit students in future opportunities, it can be life-threatening. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1–14, and it is the fifth leading cause of all deaths for people of all ages, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Swim lessons are critical to reducing these deaths, however, many kids never learn to swim because their parents cannot afford lessons. That’s why the Santa Barbara Family YMCA, along with other branches of the Channel Islands YMCA, offers its Learn to Swim Program to selected area elementary schools free-of-charge.
 
“We’re thankful for the support from the community which allows us to provide valuable programs like Learn to Swim to our local youth,” said Tim Hardy, district vice president of the Santa Barbara Family YMCA. “We commend the staff at Adams Elementary for making it a priority that their students gain confidence in the water.” 
 
The foundational elements of the program include water safety rules, buddy swimming, and basic swimming strokes and skills. The students begin at different stages of expertise, some being knowledgeable swimmers while others have never had a swimming lesson before.

“We live in a town where water is everywhere. I wanted these kids to have the same experiences I had growing up,” said Churchman, who estimated that half of the students who participated did not know how to swim prior to the program.

During the 2014–15 school year, 529 children participated in the Channel Islands YMCA Learn to Swim program throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Nearly 70 percent of those children were non-swimmers when they started the program. 

“Learning to swim gives the kids confidence, not only in the water but also in other areas of life,” said Vanessa Tooch, aquatics director at the Santa Barbara Family YMCA.

Certified lifeguards and swimming instructors work with the children to develop the basics of water safety along with the YMCA’s core values of respect, responsibility, caring and honesty.

YMCA of the USA and The Little One Foundation help provide financial support for this life-saving program.

The YMCA has been America's leading swim instructor for more than 100 years. Beyond instruction, the Y also provides recreational, competitive and specialty aquatics programs for all ages and abilities, including parent-child classes, water exercise and therapy, water safety and rescue and water sports.

Click here to learn of programs and offerings at the Santa Barbara Family YMCA. 

— Hannah Rael is a publicist representing the Santa Barbara Family YMCA.

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