Paddock Lane second graders got off the school bus with nervous excitement to participate in the Beatrice YMCA’s new splash program Friday morning.
Students from Paddock Lane and Lincoln Elementary will be bused to the YMCA during school hours to receive six free swimming lessons between now and the end of the school year.
Kim Seggerman, Aquatics Coordinator at the YMCA, said when she started her job, she counted what color wristbands kids wore when coming to the pool for parties. Green meant they could swim the whole pool, yellow meant they could swim to the halfway point, and red meant they had to stay in the shallow area.
“We had 189 kids come through,” Seggerman said. “50 percent of them could swim, 30 percent of them could 'ish' swim, and 20 percent had no swimming abilities, and that was just too much.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics are similar to Seggerman’s findings. According to their website, 10 deaths per day are caused by unintentional drowning. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger, making it second-leading cause of accidental death after vehicle accidents.
Seggerman said she decided to meet with YMCA leadership, as well as the school principals, physical education instructors, and Assistant Superintendent Jackie Nielsen to come up with a plan to incorporate swimming instructions with their education.
Seggerman said they decided to teach second grade students because this summer is when they will be able to attend the YMCA or Beatrice Water Park by themselves.
“So I want these kids to have some knowledge of water safety, the basic skills to swim,” Seggerman said. “Or at least to [teach them to] get out of the pool if they were to fall in before they go by themselves to a waterpark or a swimming pool.”
In order to have the lessons be free, Seggerman reached out to local businesses to have them donate towards transportation costs, getting extra instructors to help and providing swimwear to kids that did not have any.
“So far we’re doing really, really well in that respect, and it’s been highly supported by the community,” Seggerman said.
Roughly 125 students will be participating in the swimming lessons, and Seggerman said she wants that number to grow in the future.
“My hope is that we can expand this program,” Seggerman said. “Next year with the swim teams I’m going to work with them to try to come up with some fundraisers for the following years so that we can expand this beyond Beatrice public and go to not only the parochial schools and home schools, but even other schools within the county.”
Nielsen said the program was offered during the school day so that all the students had an opportunity to participate.
“Beatrice Public Schools is very excited to partner with the YMCA to integrate the Splash Program into our physical education curriculum," she said. "It helps provide additional and creative ways to develop our students’ health and well-being.
The first lesson focused on seeing how well each student could swim. While most students were happy to splash in the water, a couple were nervous to participate, but the lifeguards helped everybody jump in, swim across the pool, and do back floats.
Seggerman said she thought the lessons went well and stressed that swim lessons are held all year, with scholarships for those that need financial aid, because everybody’s at risk of drowning.