The El Camino YMCA in Mountain View recently collaborated with the Mountain View Police Department’s Dreams & Futures program to host a free Safety Around Water program for 100 at-risk students.
Fifty fourth- and fifth-graders and 50 sixth- and seventh-graders received swim lessons from officers and volunteers twice a week over the summer, according to a local YMCA representative. The kids learned basic water skills, what to do when stuck in the water unexpectedly, how to find a safe place to swim, and more.
Launched in 2017, the YMCA’s Safety Around Water program emphasizes basic swimming skills and the importance of water safety to increase confidence in the water and reduce the risk of drowning.
“Drowning poses a threat to the health and well-being of people nationwide, particularly among children and minority populations,” said Renee Zimmerman, executive director of the El Camino YMCA. “Two children die every day because of drowning; drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old and is the second leading cause of death for children from 5 to 14 years old.”
A $1,500 donation from Los Altos Community Foundation enabled the Safety Around Water program to expand and collaborate with the MVPD’s Dreams & Futures initiative; the 100 participants were the largest group yet, according to Zimmerman.
Originally a gang-prevention program, Dreams & Futures has evolved to promote teamwork, decision-making and drug and alcohol prevention, with the goal of creating a bond between local youth and Mountain View police officers, said Elizabeth Mendez, Mountain View Police Youth Services Unit coordinator. Although swimming was already part of the program’s curriculum, the police department partnered with Safety Around Water not only to promote water safety, but also to encourage the children to have fun – with positive results.
“We saw some kids in the beginning of the program terrified to get into the water. For some, it was not something they had really been exposed to or had the self-confidence to participate in,” Mendez said. “After just a few lessons with the SAW program, we saw those same kids more confident in their abilities, jumping at the opportunity to be the first in the pool. They not only have a newfound confidence in their own abilities, but they also have swim safety skills that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”
For more information on Safety Around Water, visit ymca.net/watersafety.
For more information on Dreams & Futures, visit mountainview.gov/depts/police/youth/dreams.asp.