YMCA teaches kids to 'Be Water Safe'

Aug. 13, 2012
YMCA staff, and BELL students and staff participated in the Be Water Safe program on July 27 at the Downtown Springfield YMCA Family Center.

Reminder Publications submitted photo

SPRINGFIELD — The YMCA of Greater Springfield is working with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) to help more children learn to be water safe. Eighty Springfield school children in grades two to five children recently participated in the Y's Be Water Safe initiative designed to teach children vital skills relating to swimming, boating and sun safety.

"Drowning is a leading cause of accidental deaths in children under the age of 8," Noel Vasquez, aquatics director, YMCA of Greater Springfield Downtown Family Center, said. "Each year more than 8,000 people in the United States drown in Aquatic venues. With more access to aquatic facilities, both guarded and unguarded, it is vital to the children of our community that they learn how to swim."

A study by the University of Memphis and the USA Swimming organization indicates that around 70 percent of African-American children don't know how to swim, compared to about 40 percent of white children. African-American children between the ages of five and 14 are three times more likely than other children to drown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Children must learn how to be safe around water," adds Vasquez. "By learning basic water safety principles, we can help curve the unfortunate trend and make this a safe summer of water fun for the children in our communities."

The Be Water Safe program is part of the YMCA of Greater Springfield's holistic approach to education, health and wellness. Through partnerships with organizations like BELL, which provides summer learning programs for children in Springfield, the Y is working to build a brighter future for the youth, teens, families and seniors throughout the greater Springfield region.

BELL works to ensure all children have the learning opportunities they need to fulfill their potential in school and in life. Research shows that a lack of additional learning time — and in particular, a lack of summer learning opportunities — causes up to 2/3 of the academic achievement gap between children from low-income communities and their higher-income peers.

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