On the Monday after spring break, the pool at Mission Valley Aquatics and Fitness was filled with third-grade students from Linderman Elementary. Many of the regular patrons and swimmers were startled to hear the laughter and excited voices of students that were supposed to be back at school. These students were starting their second year of swim lessons, and that Monday was the first of eight lessons that they would be receiving over the course of two weeks. The students were divided into small groups of five to seven, based on ability and experience to ensure that each student was getting quality instruction. Most of the third-grade students had taken these lessons last year as second graders, and were excited to be back at the pool again.
The second and third grade “Learn to Swim” program is a project that is funded by a challenge grant from the Greater Polson Community Foundation. The challenge grant provides funds over a four-year period that must be matched by the Mission Valley Aquatic and Fitness Center. The matching funds have been donated by many individuals and businesses in the community, as well as private foundations.
The goal of this project is to ensure that every second and third grader in Polson receives free quality swim instruction over the course of two years. Our community is rich in natural water features, yet many of our children historically have not had access to swim lessons. Drowning is a real danger for our children. Mission Valley Aquatics and Fitness has a vision that every child in our community shall have learn to swim. The ultimate goal of this program is to expand to the entire Mission Valley, not just Polson. This four-year pilot program is just the beginning. Last year, to complement the swim lessons, the Polson Rotary donated annual pool passes to the second-grade students that completed the lessons, in order to ensure that they could continue to improve their skills.
The lessons for third graders ended last week and on April 22, the second graders were to take their very first lesson. Once again, during school hours, the pool will be filled with children that should be in school. But they are in school, and they are being taught lifelong skills thanks to the generosity of the community that we live in.