LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The YMCA of Greater Louisville has teamed with Jefferson County Public Schools to provide swim lessons for hundreds of children who might not otherwise have access. The second session of the four-week Swim Access Grant program is underway at Central High School.
"I was kind of scared to come to the deep end," began Tywann Hickman, 10. "I didn't know if I could swim at 5' 7" because I'm not that tall."
Tywann, however, quickly learned to cannonball that fear away. The Cane Run YMCA camper has not only tackled the deep end of the Yellowjackets swimming pool, but also learned to replace fear with confidence and safety skills.
"They taught me how to go back and forth multiple times and they taught me how to do back sparrows and how to float on my back and how to use kick boards," said a smiling Tywann.
Turns out, Tywann and nearly 400 other children from area YMCAs, the Parkland Boys and Girls Club, Portland Neighborhood House and Family Scholar House are learning techniques that can help save lives.
"We have way too many drownings of young people. It's the number on injury related cause of death for young boys and the second leading cause of death for young girls," said Steve Tarver, CEO of YMCA of Greater Louisville. "We're at Central High School with a partnership with JCPS. The principal here in particular was a big advocate for community based swimming for his neighborhood."
According Tarver, many youngsters in the west Louisville area often have issues accessing swim lessons. Through the national Swim Access Grant, enrolled participants are able to take part in one of two four-week sessions that grant them access to YMCA swim instructors twice a week.
"We come here Mondays and Tuesdays every week," said Tywann.
While Tywann can now literally swim laps around others, getting to that point for many other youngsters takes time.
"Some of our instructors had bruises on their arms from being held so tight the first day or two of the class," began Tarver. "Now we've got kids with smiles on their faces and eyes in the water."
It's progress the newly finned fish and their instructors celebrate, because with each biweekly lesson comes a boost in confidence that further diminishes fear while increasing safety.
"Vigilance by all adults is very important," said Tarver. "This is not a guarantee that something can't happen. This should be combined with strong and effective and vigilant adult supervision as well."
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