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Water Safety Class a Blast for 2nd Graders

By Katherine Massopust—

PERTH AMBOY — Participants from 2nd Grade classes in all five elementary schools in Perth Amboy are engaging in a Water Safety Learn to Swim Program.

The program began on January 22, 2013 and will continue until May when all of the second grade classes in each school have participated. “There are eight to nine 2nd Grade classes in almost every elementary school in Perth Amboy. Each school sends a 2nd Grade class one day a week for two weeks. The Wilentz School comes on Tuesdays,” YMCA Director Yarelis Figueroa states.

Y CEO and President Steve Jobin states, “The students come at 11 a.m. and spend one and half hours in the classroom, eat lunch, then spend an hour and half in the pool learning basic water skills. They leave around 2:30 p.m. “They are learning personal water safety.”

The program is financed by the Board of Education on a per child basis. It pays for necessary equipment and instruction.

Aquatic Coordinator Lisa Leonardo who is also a certified teacher is the lead instructor for the program. “The kids are learning the basics of water safety skills. They are learning pool safety as well as safety when they go to the beaches in the summer. They have to understand that they are living in Perth Amboy and although there is no swimming in the Waterfront they know what to do if someone is drowning. They know when to swim (in a pool or at the beach) and that there should always be a lifeguard or an adult eighteen or older present. They are learning basic rescue; to call someone and use simple homemade devices (to pull someone out of the water). They are learning how to be safe and listen to the lifeguard’s rules and always swim with a buddy.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janine Walker-Caffrey was in full support of the program. “The kids and parents are excited. Many parents are non-swimmers so they also are excited.”

Jobin states that this program stems way back when the old YMCA was on Jefferson Street. “It’s the City by the Bay and many kids drown each year. This program was a no-brainer. It’s important that kids learn about swimming. When kids learn about basketball, they get excited about basketball but swimming is a different kind of sport. It builds confidence. It’s about survival. That’s what instruction should be.”

Featured in the course is the Wibbit, a water obstacle course. “Not every kid wants to jump in the water and swim laps. Here they are learning safety and having fun at the same time,” Jobin states.

There is a 1:4 or 1:3 ratio of swim instructor to students and there is a lifeguard on duty. Julie Schick, the Director of Athletics, Health & Physical Education and Nursing worked with Jobin to get the program running. “This program is very unique. We are fortunate to have a YMCA in our town. We work closely with the phys-ed instructors. The Academy for Visual Learning and the Performing Arts Academy (East Campus) kids already have gym at the Y.”

Schick stated, “Some schools in other towns have pools. Why should we wait until the 9th Grade to teach kids to swim?”

Seven year old Wilentz School student Daniella Almeria said of the program, “If you fall in the water you won’t drown. I’ve never been in here (the YMCA) before but it’s a lot of fun! It’s cool!”

Seven year old Wilentz School student Gustavo Merino is having a great time, “I haven’t been here (the YMCA) in a very long time. I’m learning water safety and how to blow bubbles (breathing techniques). It’s cool to swim.”

City Council President Joel Pabon stated, “If I was their age, I would be ecstatic. This is a great program. A lot of people don’t even know this building is here. They see its size and say they can’t afford it. The kids bring their parents here and they get involved themselves.”

The YMCA offers other programs for adults. According to Jobin, “We also have the “Not For One Second” Program so parents learn not to leave their kids alone around water for even one second. They are getting educated about water safety.”

In March there will be an elementary school intramural swim league. “The elementary schools have no sports,” Jobin states the importance of athletics in the younger grades. “Last year we had over 220 kids participating in the program.”

“The High School kids come and help the little kids,” Dr. Caffrey states.

As for the 2nd Grade Water Safety Program, each participant receives a certificate and ribbon for being in the program, but most of all the students are learning how to be safe in the water.

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