Piedmont Family YMCA Learn to Swim

Learn to Swim at the Piedmont Family YMCA

At the Piedmont Family YMCA, our main goal is to strengthen communities. To further this mission, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. One great part of this mission has been our collaboration with the Benjamin Hair Just Swim for Life Foundation, which has greatly increased the accessibility of swim lessons throughout central Virginia. As an organization, we helped support some of the BH-JSL’s first programs in the Wilton Farms and Park’s Edge programs. In the Fall of 2010, we sponsored a program that offered free swim lessons to 24 children from the Wilton Farm residential complex 5 days a week for 2 weeks. In the summer of 2011, we sponsored learn-to-swim courses for 18 children, which lasted 1 hour each day for 5 days. Throughout the entire summer of 2012, we offered scholarship swim lessons for over 100 children.

For our upcoming programs, we will be collaborating with the Benjamin Hair Just Swim for Life Foundation (BH-JSL) with the mission to raise awareness of the need, and to provide the motivation, systems, and tools to “waterproof our community” by assuring that children have basic swimming skills. Building on our past programs, including the City of Charlottesville Public School system and our successful Charlottesville City Elementary School Summer Camp Learn-to-Swim program, we are building a “School Integrated Learn-to-Swim and Water Safety” program that will be conducted collaboratively by the BH-JSL, the Piedmont Family YMCA, and the Albemarle County Department of Parks and Recreation and Public Schools.

School Integrated Learn to Swim

Part One of the program will run during the spring academic semester of 2013 and will offer learn-to-swim programs on a regular basis during the school day as a part of the standard physical education curriculum. The program will be modeled after the City of Charlottesville Summer Camp program and other successful programs developed in conjunction with the City of Charlottesville public school system. This proposed school-based program will train elementary school students in Albemarle County by offering each student eight 45-minute lessons at county pools, including the YMCA at Crozet PARC.

After School Learn to Swim

Furthermore, Part Two of the program, an “After School Learn-to-Swim program,” will allow for swimming instruction as a part of the schools’ regular after-school programs. This program will serve 300 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders in Albemarle County. Albemarle classes will take place at the Crozet PARC Facility during the spring of 2013.

Metrics of Success and Rationale

Currently, Albemarle County has only limited learn-to-swim scholarship programs and none that are integrated into the physical education curriculum within their public schools. In the past, BH-JSL has worked to increase the availability of learn-to-swim and water safety programs in central Virginia through our collaborations with a broad range of community partners. Our goal is to expand these existing programs into the public school system by offering additional infrastructure and resources in order to more fully integrate learn-to-swim programs in the public schools. Research suggests that over 50% of 5th graders in Charlottesville qualify for free or reduced lunch programs and cannot afford to pay retail price for swim lessons, and we expect these statistics to be similar for the County. Our metrics of success will include increases in the numbers of swim lessons offered and completed – especially among at-risk scholarship children and the number of total and scholarship children who are identified and trained under these programs. By holding learn-to-swim classes for elementary school students in Albemarle Public Schools, we will be able to train every elementary school student at these schools over a period of three years and ensure that they are safe around the water.

All learn-to-swim and water safety classes will be run according to the American Red Cross or YMCA national standards and participants will be evaluated based on the swimming levels set forth by the Red Cross. Children will be broken into groups based on their prior swimming ability before instruction begins to ensure that all swimmers are receiving appropriate and adequate instruction. The main goal for these programs is to ensure that all children will be “water-safe” by the end of the program. For BH-JSL, the term “water-safe” corresponds to the American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Level 3, which includes skills such as floating and gliding on the front and back, swimming up to 25 yards on the front and back, treading in deep water, among other skills. All students will be tracked by the instructors according to their progress and will be eligible for placement into remedial lessons if they are not deemed to be “water safe” by the end of the course. Remedial lessons will be available through placement in the BH-JSL Holiday Inn learn-to-swim program as well as placement in other BH-JSL sponsored programs in the area.

We believe that the development of our collaboration with the Albemarle County Public schools will allow us to serve a wider range of people and to more effectively achieve our goal of “waterproofing” the central Virginia area. BH-JSL and the YMCA can greatly leverage our funds by utilizing our extensive volunteer support network and expertise with developing sustainable and scalable models for learn-to-swim programs. In the past, the Foundation has been able to hold swim lessons at fraction of the retail price through collaborative efforts. Volunteers serve critical roles in our program by providing services such as lifeguarding, water safety instruction, swim aide instruction and dry deck and logistical management.

The primary objective of this project is to build off our successful, sustainable, and scalable model for learn-to-swim programs and to incorporate these programs into the standard physical education curriculum in public schools. This will allow a number of benefits for students. Students who learn to swim will be at a greatly decreased risk of accidental drowning and may be able to help others who are in need. In addition to addressing the myriad issues related to this national water safety crisis, learning to swim, besides addressing the obvious issue of drowning prevention, also allows for involvement in a lifetime sport that decreases incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Multiple studies have shown that participation in low-impact sports that strongly engage the cardiovascular and respiratory systems leads to a decrease in the incidence of these chronic diseases and well as an increase in longevity and quality of life.

By creating this learn-to-swim program in the Albemarle County schools, we will be able to have a model for expanding this program to other schools. This would allow the Foundation to achieve our mission of teaching everyone in central Virginia how to swim and be safe around the water.