SwimStrong This Weekend At FRHS
Shawn Slevin admits there’s not much she knows about Rockaway. She’s an outsider. But one thing she does know is that the kids of Rockaway have the potential to be great swimmers with unlimited access to the waterfront.
Slevin has brought her not-for-profit group, The Swim Strong Foundation, to the pool of Far Rockaway High School with a new set of programs starting this weekend. The foundation provides free or low cost programs for at least half the rate of private swimming lessons to communities such as Flushing and Far Rockaway.
The group is composed entirely of volunteers. Many are former students from her 40-year history of swim instruction at St. Sebastian’s CYO program in Woodside. Slevin teaches kids to learn to swim and also trains kids with intermediate knowledge of the water to become competitive swimmers.
“I have coached in excess of 5,000 students,” Slevin said. “Many went on to receive college scholarships and students have come back to me and expressed how beneficial our time was together.”
After many years working in the business world, Slevin decided in 2006 that it was time to spread her passion and work with kids that would otherwise not be given an opportunity to become proficient swimmers.
“I consider myself the luckiest person in the world,” Slevin said about her experiences. “In 2007 we started by holding clinics for children and the following year we expanded to full programs.”
Not only can kids learn how to swim but after developing their basic skill set, they can take advantage of other clinics that introduce participants to rowing, synchronized swimming and diving.
She hopes that the programs she conducts will encourage kids to pursue swimming or the wide variety of other water-based sports competitively.
The Swim Strong Foundation receives 98 percent of their funding from private donors which include businesses that sponsor the program for about the price of one child per program.
The beginner class costs $15 per lesson and lasts for ten weeks. Slevin says most kids that participate in the program return the following year for the one-hour intermediate program and some come back to the beginner program until they feel they are ready to move on. An advanced stroke enhancement class is available as well.
According to Slevin there is one instructor for every five kids, with each instructor being a qualified swimming instructor, current or former competitive swimmer.
“The participants get a lot of personal attention,” she said. “This makes a real difference. It’s a true labor of love in a community that needs us.”
Scholarships are also available to qualifying children. Last year the program granted 36 scholarships to the program. Slevin’s goal is to raise more money through business contributions in order to make the program free and accessible to more people. In exchange, the businesses would be considered official sponsors of the program.
Those interested in attending the program should email the foundation at shawn.slevin@theswimstrongfoun dation.org or visit www.theswim strongfoundation.org. Classes begin Saturday, January 15 at 11 a.m. and continue for nine more weeks. Another session begins in March.