Four young lives were lost this past summer due to drownings in the Iowa River. While the community looks for more long-term solutions to try to avoid future tragedies, one effort will be underway in September to help get students living in low-income households more accustomed to the water.
A 16-week swim lesson program is set to begin free-of-charge to 200 fifth graders from Lenihan Intermediate School at the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA. The three leaders of the program are Lenihan Principal Ralph Bryant, and YMCA-YWCA Director Carol Hibbs and Development Director Bianca Greazel.
"I think everyone is looking for a way to try and make something positive come out of a terrible tragedy," Hibbs said. "It was this we saw as having a lasting, long-term effect on these kids and give them the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe."
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Connie Klaas instructs swim lessons at the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA Wednesday. A new program, which will provide swim lessons for fifth graders who can’t afford them, is expected to start within a few weeks. The program has spawned from the tragic drownings in Marshalltown this past
The program is designed for all types of students in need of water time, though it's apparent Marshalltown's immigrant population will benefit the most. Bryant said there's been a lot of nice community efforts in response to the tragedies and this program will try to be a more long-term solution.
"Our conversation has been how do we give the longer-term skills that can avoid this from happening," Bryant said. "Or, if a child was in that situation, give them a chance to survive."
Aside from learning how to swim, the students selected for the program will also get lessons on overall water safety. The students will not only receive the instruction twice a week after school but also get their own swimsuit and life jacket.
The community is asked to support this program by donating money as the cost to run it is $100 per child. Donations can be dropped off at the YMCA-YWCA or by calling Greazel or Hibbs at 641-752-8658. Funds will also be collected through the Y's Partner with Youth campaign.
Hibbs said they already have had a big donation from JBS and they are confident they can reach the $20,000 they need to secure for the first year of the two-year program.
"We've already seen support from the community, and specifically just individuals coming to the Y," Greazel said. "I think that momentum will continue to grow."