Thankful is a keyword this month, and the Casper Family YMCA is thankful each day for the community partnerships that assist them with positive opportunities for youth development. The YMCA's new expansion is complete, and a couple of things immediately catch your attention upon walking into the building. First, a brilliantly designed YMCA Donor Wall that recognizes and honors individuals and community partners who have supported the YMCA. (Oh, and as an awesome sidenote - the donor wall was constructed, designed, and developed by NCSD students - read more about that here!) Second, immediately to your right, you’ll see the incredible new McMurry Foundation Family Pool and the Wold Foundation Lap Pool, both of which offer aquatic and swim opportunities for individuals of all ages.
As the YMCA planned for the future of these pools, they pondered the question: “What if we could teach every child in Natrona County to swim?” The YMCA staff and board wanted to continue to grow in their commitment to providing opportunities for youth to learn and thrive, so, with that idea in mind, they reached out to the Natrona County School District to create a partnership that aligns with the P.E. curriculum while providing important water safety training for students.
The YMCA SPLASH! program uses the Safety Around Water curriculum, developed to be a brief series of swim lessons both in-classroom and in-water. The lessons focus on basic water safety and self-rescue skills while helping students build self-esteem and independence. To start, the YMCA Aquatics team visits the school classroom to introduce themselves to the students while sharing information on water safety, expectations, pool rules, and more.
Aquatics Director Stephanie Clark-Sleep shares her passion for the opportunity the program provides, “Water safety is one of the most important skills that we can teach our children. We are offering water safety with swim instruction. The safety portion is one of the main reasons we wanted to create the partnership. Students come to the YMCA for four lessons, and we focus each lesson on one specific safety topic. They get classroom time on the safety lesson here at the YMCA, and then we practice those safety lessons in the pool. It’s been really impressive to watch how much information the students are retaining while their confidence grows in the water…and they’re having fun at the same time.”
The YMCA is committed to providing programs that meet the needs and interests of all community members. “We want to provide great programs that enhance health for people of all ages through the body, mind, and spirit. Specifically, with our youth, we do that through our programming opportunities such as the SPLASH! Program. With these types of programs, youth can get chances to try new things, build confidence, learn new skills, meet new people, and explore new opportunities they can use as they get older,” said YMCA CEO Stephanie Disburg. In addition, swimming lessons are offered year-round and at various times to accommodate families’ busy schedules. “We encourage the students and families to further develop their swimming capabilities, either through the YMCA or another agency in town. You’re never too old or young to learn water safety and how to swim,” said Aquatics Director Stephanie Clark-Sleep.
NCSD is committed to working with our community to develop and engage at the school and district levels and community partnerships that will foster a climate of high expectations for all. “We appreciate the YMCA reaching out with this opportunity to connect with students and teach them about water safety. Our entire community plays an important role in the success of students and staff, and we appreciate and thank them for their support and dedication to educational excellence,” shared Superintendent Jennings.
We had the opportunity to stop by the YMCA when Park Elementary students were completing one of their lessons, where the smell of chlorine and the sounds of excited students in the air greeted us. While some students went straight to the water to practice what they previously learned, others excitedly waited for their turn on "dry land" while focusing intently on the lesson and asking great questions of the instructors. Park Elementary Principal, Emily Catellier, shared her appreciation for the opportunity, “Our third graders loved their time at the YMCA. For many of them, this was their first time learning water safety and taking swim lessons. Including these real-world experiences in our learning means that we rely heavily on strong community partners, like the YMCA, to help our students learn and grow!”