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Cindy Boring gathered her seven swimming students together to give them some extra pointers before allowing them to start a free swim.
Boring is one of the volunteers teaching 817 Wilson County second-graders swimming basics over an eight-week period in the Learn To Swim program that began Monday.
The program is a collaborative effort between Wilson County Schools, Wilson Parks and Recreation and the Wilson Family YMCA.
“Cindy Boring comes every day,” said Kathy Davis, executive director of the Wilson Family YMCA.
“She is a retired firefighter and she comes every single day to swimming lessons, and her students make such progress every single week. She doesn’t mind what level they are. She takes whoever ends up in her group. She likes to work with the same children every day, and by Friday she has them jumping into the deep end, floating, flipping over and then flipping back over. She is truly doing a wonderful job at drown-proofing these children.
“All of our volunteers are critical to the success of this program because without the volunteers, we would not be able to offer this service to the Wilson County Schools and to the children of Wilson County,” Davis said.
Other volunteers include YMCA staff, Barton College students and community members who recognize the importance of learning swimming safety.
“I was a water safety instructor when I was very young, and I really missed it,” Boring said. “I like the immediate gratification of seeing these kids change. Being in an inside environment where it is warm, they can learn at least an appreciation of being in the water.”
Davis said it’s fun to watch the children progress as they learn more and gain confidence in the water.
“Even the children who were so afraid at the beginning of the week are like little fish by Friday,” Davis said.
The students start by blowing bubbles, then learn to kick, float and roll over on their back. Some begin to develop basic swim strokes.
Each student has 35 minutes in the water for five days.
“I see them change from Monday to Friday,” Boring said. “Some of the kids could barely get their face in the water, and by Friday they are turning over.”
Boring tells the children that it took her until the eighth grade to overcome her fear despite taking swimming lessons every summer from the second grade to the eighth grade.
“Turning over on my back was the big fear for me, so I want to make them understand that I have been exactly where they have, and I understand the fear that they have,” Boring said.
“This program is really good because at this age, there’s a lot of kids that have never had a chance to go to a pool or be in water.”
This year, a number of AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service to America workers are helping with the program.
“All of the supporting agencies have been willing to share their VISTAs with the swim program,” Davis said.
Davis was able to get two additional grants to help pay for transportation taking the kids from school to the pool.
“The Y is responsible for raising money to pay for the bus transportation, and that’s very expensive,” Davis said.
It takes about 317 miles of activity bus travel for all the days of the program.
The Wells Fargo Foundation contributed $3,500, and the Healthcare of Wilson Auxiliary gave $2,000 to be used toward transportation.
“Last year the cost of transportation was $5,400, and so I am assuming it will be pretty close to the same this year,” Davis said.
The YMCA buys bathing suits for any children who need them.
“We don’t want any child not to be able to participate because they don’t have a towel or a bathing suit,” Davis said. “Everyone is welcome.”
The three goals of the program are for children to have fun, be confident and stay safe.
“Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children of this age.
“Two children die every single day,” Davis said.
“What we are trying to do is keep them safe, help them gain confidence and enjoy the water and have a good time. Hopefully we will develop some lifelong swimmers.”