NEWBERRY — Newberry County youths will soon have an opportunity to learn how to swim — for free — thanks to a new YMCA program called Third Grade Learn to Swim for those youth who are now rising fourth-graders.
“With such a high amount of incidents and so many children with no exposure to water, we would like to create a safe environment for those children,” said Eric Nelson, executive director of Newberry County Family YMCA.
Nelson said ideally they would like to include all youths, but needed to start at a base age. The YMCA chose third graders to start because they are at an age to comprehend and grasp what they are doing.
The YMCA will have two objectives when teaching the youths how to swim: water safety and water experience.
“We want them to know what to do around water and learn not to fear, but respect, the water,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the program was one that the YMCA has wanted to do for many years. Now, thanks to donors who believe children should learn how to swim, the YMCA is able to offer the free lessons.
“We have been working with the school district for two years talking about this and to find funds. This year, a donor came and helped,” said Khristia Webb, aquatics director for the YMCA.
Through the donors and a scholarship campaign, the YMCA was able to raise the $40,000 to have the program. The money will be used to pay for the instructors and pool time.
The staff at the Newberry County YMCA has been hard at work getting the word out, announcing it on their Facebook page as well as their website. They also sent voucher forms to the school district, which were then given to every third grader.
“We also have a gentleman in the African-American community who is putting the word out in the churches,” Webb said.
Nelson added that this man is working to get free swim lessons to all youths in the community through the help of donations.
Youths signing up for the lessons they will have to answer a few basic questions, including if they are a beginner swimmer — one with no swimming experience — or an advanced swimmer, or one who can swim some on his or her own.
The YMCA is offering 10 sessions: June 8-June 12 (this session is full), June 15-June 19, June 22-June 26, June 29-July 3, July 6-July 10, July 13-July 17, July 20-July 24, July 27-July 31, Aug. 3-Aug. 7 and Aug. 10-Aug. 14. Each lesson will last about 30 minutes.
“On average, we can take about 40 youths a session, but it does really depend on the skill set of all the youths in the group,” Webb said.
Ten instructors will teach swimming as well as proper pool and water safety. The program’s last session takes place the week of Aug. 10, but Webb believes they will be able to continue the program in the fall.
“It will be on a different schedule then, because I will be losing many of my instructors who will be returning to college,” she said.
Contact the YMCA at 803-276-9936 or visit http://newberryymca.org/ for more information.