Categorized | Schools

YMCA of the Highland Lakes, Burnet school district partner for water safety program

EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON

YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond instructor Gretchen O’Brien works with a group of Shady Grove Elementary School second-graders during the Safe Around Water program. The local YMCA and Burnet Consolidated Independent School District offer the water safety instruction to all second-grade students in the district. The program is three days a week for two weeks. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond instructor Gretchen O’Brien works with a group of Shady Grove Elementary School second-graders during the Safe Around Water program. The local YMCA and Burnet Consolidated Independent School District offer the water safety instruction to all second-grade students in the district. The program is three days a week for two weeks. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

About a dozen Shady Grove Elementary School second-grade students lined up on the top step of the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond pool. Several looked excited, but a few seemed apprehensive.

A few feet away from them, standing in the shallow end of the pool, was Gretchen O’Brien, a YMCA swim instructor. She gave the kids a few simple instructions. They stretched out their feet in front of them and kicked. After a few moments of this, they turned on their stomachs, laid in the water with their feet behind them, and kicked again.

O’Brien offered encouraging words and some instructions to a couple of the students who needed more assistance.

After a few minutes of kicking, O’Brien had the kids comfortable in the water as she moved on to more instruction.

She’s not teaching them how to swim but how to stay safe around the water. The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District and YMCA of the Highland Lakes teamed up to offer all second-graders the Safety Around Water program. The district buses the second-graders to the YMCA every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for about two hours each day for two weeks.

“It’s based on the principles of jump, push, turn, and grab,” said Jennifer Kenson, YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond executive director.

Allen Jordan, a YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond instructor and lifeguard, keeps an eye on a Shady Grove Elementary School second-grader as they swim back to the side of the pool. Allen, who is also the pool manager and YMCA soccer coach, leads a group second-grader students with more advanced swimming abilities during the Safe Around Water program. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Allen Jordan, a YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond instructor and lifeguard, keeps an eye on a Shady Grove Elementary School second-grader as they swim back to the side of the pool. Allen, who is also the pool manager and YMCA soccer coach, leads a group second-grader students with more advanced swimming abilities during the Safe Around Water program. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

She also helped develop the program. Kenson explained the basic premise is on giving children the skills to help themselves if they fall into the water.

“It’s not a swim instruction class,” she said. “It’s about keeping kids safe around, or in the case they end up in the water. It focuses 100 percent on teaching the children on how to save themselves.”

During the class, instructors divide the students into different groups based on their swimming abilities and work with them on those levels.

The school district provides transportation, but it also commits to giving up classroom instruction for the program.

“It’s that important to the district,” Kenson said. The Hill Country Swim Boosters also jump in to help. “It’s also highly subsidized by (the YMCA).”

The YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond offers followup instruction with discounted swim lessons for students who take part in the Safety Around Water program.

Go to the Burnet CISD website or the  YMCA of the Highland Lakes website for more information on their activities and programs.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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