Last summer, a child in an apartment complex in Cobb County drowned in the pool. After the incident, the YMCA board of directors in Cobb decided to start a swimming program in attempts to prevent future accidents. The Learn to Swim program was geared specifically toward low-income families who could not afford lessons, or whose parents themselves did not know how to swim or have time to teach their children.
“Most children in our area between the ages of three to five don’t know how to swim,” said Rebecca Shipley, branch director of the Learn to Swim program. “Neither do their parents. The Learn to Swim program gives them the skills they need to swim confidently in the water.”
While teaching at the Y proved useful, there were apartment communities that were not being reached. So the board of directors for the McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA decided to spread the program to local apartments starting in The Falls at Sope Creek from June 13 to last Friday, and most recently in Las Colinas off Franklin Road in Marietta. YMCA volunteers have been at Las Calinas since June 27 and will continue teaching there through Friday.
The program offers more than swimming lessons. Children 3 to 12 are given the opportunities to participate in arts and crafts, soccer and a free lunch provided by MUST Ministries.
“It’s more than just a place where kids learn to swim,” Shipley said. “It’s a summer camp. Some of the kids’ parents work during the day, and so they just register themselves.”
Sugey Desiderio, 12, a resident in the Las Calinas apartment complex, said she was excited to be part of the Learn to Swim program. Sugey has yet to learn how to swim properly. She is participating in the camp while her father works.
Emily Griffin of Woodstock heard about the program from a friend and decided she wanted to volunteer.
“I’m excited to be working with the kids,” she said while youngsters sat around her were finishing their lunches.
Lifeguards are also helping prepare kids to swim.
The YMCA in Canton awards Partners with Youth Scholarships to kids and families depending on their income. Thirty percent of all members in the Canton YMCA have scholarships that help pay for swimming lessons and all other activities, including summer camps and laser tag.
“A scholarship can cover 90 percent of the cost depending on their income,” said Peggy Donaldson, a representative for the YMCA in Canton. The YMCA works fastidiously to raise money for the scholarship, she said.
“Whenever we do a 5K or a fundraiser, all proceeds go toward the Partner with Youth Scholarship,” Donaldson said.