YMCA Promotes Safety Around Water with Free Programs for Children

The YMCA is known nationwide for their swim classes, but this year Massachusetts YMCAs will offer a Safety Around Water program free of charge to members of the community.

According to a press release, Massachusetts YMCAs will use $400,000 of their Fiscal Year 2018 Youth-at-Risk allocation to provide swim instruction, education, employment, and training to the” community’s most vulnerable populations.”

Jeremy Stiles, senior director of aquatics for the YMCA of Greater Boston said that this funding will be used in two different ways.

The first is the national Safety Around Water program, which the YMCA of Greater Boston will be offering for free to community members. The YMCA of Greater Boston has 12 different branches that have pools, and the classes will take place in those pools over 8 weeks and focus on some key techniques.

The first technique, Stiles said, is “Jump Push Turn Grab,” which is meant to teach a child how to recover if they get pushed or fall into water. The second is “Swim Float Swim,” which does not focus on swim skills but will teach children how to get themselves to safety. They will learn how to swim on the surface of the water until they get tired, then learn how to do resting strokes on their back, and then roll back onto their stomach to keep swimming towards the side of the pool. Parents will also receive take home material about safety in the water.

The second way the funding will be used is for free job training for teens in the community, through either a free lifeguard course or a certified instructor program. The lifeguard course will teach students CPR, first aid, and emergency oxygen delivery, Stiles said, while the certified instructor program will go beyond the life-saving skills and teach teens how to become a swim instructor.

“We typically employ right out of classes,” Stiles said, and the “goal would be to hire as many as we can” to support water safety knowledge. “We believe that swimming is a life-saving skill,” he said.

Stiles said that they’ve already done a couple of these free trainings, with eight more occurring at different YMCAs throughout Greater Boston. The water safety swim classes will begin at the end of July.

Stiles also said that there are a few things parents can do to make sure their children are safe in the water. 88 percent of children drown under adult supervision, he said, so any time children are in the water, there needs to be a designated “Water Watcher.” Everyone in the area needs to know who the Water Watcher is, and that person cannot take their eyes off of the water. A Water Watcher card is handed out to parents of children enrolled in the safety around water class.

“Drowning is not like you see on TV,” Stiles said. It happens very quickly, and the drowning process can begin in as little as 30 seconds in just a few feet of water. It is also most often silent, he said, not the screaming and flailing of arms that is so common in TV and movies.

Stiles also recommends that any flotation devices that are used be U.S. Coast Guard approved, as pool noodles and rafts can give children and adults a false sense of security.

The YMCA also offers scholarships to its participants for other swim classes. Over the past year, over $50,000 in scholarships was provided for swim instruction for families with children under the age of 12, according the the press release.

“We do believe that swim lessons save lives,” said Stiles. “We never allow money to be a barrier to teach kids these skills.”

Families with questions can direct them to Jeremy Stiles at [email protected], or go to their local YMCA.

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