2011-07-29 / Community

Far Rockaway Swims Strong

By John Weber

Shawn Slevin, executive director of the Swim Strong Foundation, has brought her foundation’s motto of “Inspiring Youth to Achieve Their Potential through Swimming” to Far Rockaway High School (FRHS).

The Swim Strong Foundation is an all volunteer program that started its first clinic in 2007 to save and change the lives of children through swimming. In the United States, drowning is the second highest cause of death for children. Due to rip currents, the Rockaways are especially dangerous for inexperienced swimmers. This is why the foundation teaches their students how to survive and what to do when or if they are ever caught in a riptide.

The Swim Strong Foundation provides year-long and weekly clinics to prevent lives being taken due to drowning. African Americans have the highest rates of death by drowning, which is three times higher than any other demographic. Also, African and Hispanic Americans have the highest rates of Type II Diabetes. Childhood obesity is associated with the onset of diabetes. The foundation guides these children to live a healthy lifestyle by teaching them about proper nutrition, exercise and competition. Competitive programs and exercises are promoted to be taught to the children to introduce them to other water sports and strengthen their abilities in the water. As these swimmers progress in their strength in the water, Swim Strong introduces them to water based sports such as water polo and rowing, where college scholarships are available.

Strong swimming abilities and knowledge of the water are key lessons the foundation teaches their students. Swim Strong makes swimming accessible and affordable and is committed to low-income communities where local and general swim instruction is lacking. The life lessons learned via Swim Strong’s competitive swim clinics include self-discipline, goal setting, commitment, perseverance, resiliency and team work. These skills can be immediately applied to a child’s academic work, to their future careers, and given back to their communities.

Currently, the foundation has set up specific programs for specific swimmers such as the Get Ready, Get Wet which is aimed at getting less experienced swimmers comfortable with the water. The Stroke Enhancement and Competitive Program is for swimmers with good strokes or who are already on swim teams willing to refine their techniques and have a chance to participate in competitions.

On Saturday, July 24, Slevin, accompanied by her volunteer assistant Demi, hosted a meet and greet for swim safety on one of the hottest days of the summer.

Slevin arranged this meet for locals who were interested and those who were already a part of the Swim Strong Foundation.

A concern that was raised about the Swim Strong Foundation was the need for volunteers whose training specialized in working with those with mental and or physical disabilities. It is necessary for extra attention to be given to these children in order for them to be aware of their surroundings when swimming in either a pool or ocean.

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