Lakeland , FL (July 22, 2014) The Kindergarten Learn to Swim Program experienced its biggest year yet with more than 1,470 students participating in the free program from 16 Lakeland area elementary schools (up from 800 participants and 8 schools in 2013).
The success is significant considering the program began with relatively small numbers and has grown steadily thru the years thanks in large part to the dedicated YMCA aquatic staff and instructors.
The Kindergarten Learn to Swim Program teaches kindergarten students the basics of swimming as well as emphasizes the importance of swim safety education to the children and their family members.
The Lakeland Rotary Club has been very generous in support of the program and recently donated $70,000 to the YMCA to help increase the number of schools participating in the program and is expected to help sustain the program for the next several years. The club raised the donation through the proceeds of its annual Child of the Sun Music Festival held annually in Lakeland.
“The Lakeland Rotary has provided us with an incredible opportunity to touch the lives of so many children and families here in our district,” said Kathleen Wright, physical education specialist for the Polk County School District. “The financial support not only allows us to double the number of students we touch with the program, but provides sustainability and a foundation for which we can hopefully expand the program to all of our elementary schools.”
The Kindergarten Learn to Swim Program is a joint effort between Polk County Public Schools and the YMCA of West Central Florida. GiveWell Community Foundation (formerly Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland) has also been a generous supporter of the program for a number of years along with the City of Lakeland recreational department providing facilities and instructors to increase the number of students served.
Students attend lessons for one week about 45 minutes each day. The lessons are conducted at the Lakeland YMCA(South Lakeland), Fontaine Gills YMCA(North Lakeland), or the Gandy Pool at the Kelly Recreation Complex. Children are taught basic swimming techniques, such as independently entering and exiting the water, floating, and swimming for 5 to 10 feet. Students who enter the program with some swimming ability are taught at an appropriate level to improve their skills. Participants classified as “non-swimmers” are those students entering the program who do not have at least basic swimming skills.
During the 2013-2014 school year, 77 percent of the kindergarteners entering the program were classified as non-swimmers, and 23 percent were classified as swimmers. Eighty-nine percent of all the students who completed the program achieved a level of at least basic swimming skills. In addition, sixty-six percent of the students identified as non-swimmers coming into the program became swimmers upon completion of its lessons.
Kirk Eich, YMCA of West Central Florida said “the YMCA is proud to participate in such a wonderful and critically important program that no doubt will saves lives. Aquatic instruction is one of the core programs the YMCA is able to provide to the community and with the help of Rotary and Give Well we will be able to continue the program for the foreseeable future. My hope would be that we can expand the program to a county wide basis at some point in the future with the help of other municipalities and partners”.