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Hall elementary students learn life-saving water skills
Youngsters wait to begin swim class at the J.A. Walters YMCA.

Just a few weeks ago, Landon Webber was afraid of the swimming pool.

“When he first got here, he was kind of scared,” his mother, Tara Webber, said. “He didn’t want to get in.”
But now?

“I learned how to glide,” the 6-year-old White Sulphur Elementary School student said, then jumped into the pool to demonstrate. “I can do the frog, too.”

Landon is one of around 25 students from White Sulphur, Lula and Riverbend elementary schools bused to J.A. Walters Family YMCA every Tuesday to learn how to swim.

“We wanted to give an opportunity to kids in the community who have never had swim lessons before,” Executive Director Robert Childers said.

“With us being a lake community, we felt it was a good idea to try to start something up for the school systems,” he added, referring to the nearby Lake Lanier.

The students are split into age-appropriate groups, and are instructed by the YMCA’s Water Safety Instructor certified lifeguards.

“For the little ones, the first couple of weeks was honestly just getting their faces wet,” Aquatics Director Renee Gorsline said. “Then you get to the 10-, 11-year-olds, and the goal was more stroke mechanics.

“For the little ones, a lot of times it’s about survival,” she added. “If you fall in the water, what do you do, what do you not do.”

“He talked about that to me for a week,” Webber said about her son. “They showed him how, if somebody jumps in, you don’t jump in. You throw the towel so they can grab the towel, and you pull them out.”

The 10-week program is nearly over for the year, so many of the students have graduated to more complicated moves. On Tuesday, they were learning how to do the backstroke.

“And how to kick our legs, because some people bend their knees,” said 10-year-old Stephany Samples from White Sulphur. “We have to kick them straight. And we have to (breathe) bubbles to not drown.”

Childers and Gorsline said they hope to extend the program next year, opening it to more schools.

“The earlier they are in life, the easier it is for them to learn something,” Childers said. “So if we can hit them in the elementary school age to learn how to swim, then if they’re ever out on the lake in a boat, they have that skill set and maybe we’re preventing a drowning.”

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