Youngstown elementary students learning swimming safety

More than 400 Youngstown second graders will get free swimming lessons at the YMCA

More than 400 Youngstown second graders will get free swimming lessons at the YMCA, thanks to the United Way.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for school-age children.

A partnership between Youngstown City Schools and the United Way is trying to make pools a little safer for the students.

More than 400 Youngstown second graders will get free swimming lessons at the YMCA of Youngstown, thanks to the United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley.

The program is now in its eighth year, and teachers say it’s also having a positive impact on the classroom.

“This is something they know they have to act responsibly. They have to be trusted here so they have to work harder to earn this privilege,” said McGuffey Elementary Teacher Debbi Biel.

Biel said kids learn confidence in the pool, and they’re approaching their classroom with more confidence, too.

Youngstown students say they enjoy the program as well.

“I like the swimming,” said elementary student Nicky Hawkins. “When you do the floating, and when you get in and out, it’s just crazy, but it’s fun.”

Some, like Taylor Thomas, are learning how to swim for the first time.

“Swimming is very fun for me,” Thomas said. “I always get underwater. It’s very fun.”

Children take eight weeks of swim lessons at the YMCA, but this year, the program expanded.

Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, said staff noticed some kids didn’t have swimsuits and were being left out.

“They’d be sitting on the side, and they’d be crying and not engaged,” he said. “Well, now we’re making sure there are bathing suits here at the Y to make sure every child has an opportunity to learn how to swim.”

Hannon said the lessons the students learn in class could save their lives one day.

“Many kids in an urban setting are never exposed to water, so by partnering with Youngstown City Schools to make every second grader has access to the Y to learn how to swim, I think it’s a win for everybody,” he said.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nationwide, 350 children younger than five drown in pools each year. In addition, 2,600 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year from near-drowning incidents.

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