Area Third Graders Learn to Swim

IRON MOUNTAIN – Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center’s annual third grade swim program began this month, with more than 260 children expected to participate.

The program, in its third year, is offered free to all third grade students in the Dickinson County area.

“Living in a region of lakes and rivers, water safety is always a top concern,” YMCA Aquatics Director John Leech said. “We believe strongly in teaching our children how to swim. And third grade is an ideal age to have these kids come through the program.”

Leech, a swimming instructor/coach with the YMCA for more than 10 years, says third graders are at an age where they can grasp the concepts being taught and have typically already been exposed to water. He added that it’s a good age too for those who may have had a negative experience in the water because that fear is easier to overcome when caught early rather than later in life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fatal drowning remains among the leading causes of unintentional injury-related death. Research clearly shows that participation in formal swimming lessons can greatly reduce that risk.

“Its common sense, really,” Leech said. “Where we live, our kids need to know how to swim. We are so happy to be able to provide this service to our community, and we hope we can continue this program in the years to come.”

Each class of third graders receives five 40-minutes lessons as part of the YMCA program. The program runs into May. In addition to the swim lessons, Leech’s staff also introduces the kids to boat safety, lifejacket fit, proper water attire as well as sun and heat safety.

The more than 260 taking part in the program this spring come from Woodland Elementary School in Kingsford, North Elementary School in Iron Mountain, Norway Elementary School, Bishop Baraga Catholic School in Iron Mountain, Holy Spirit Catholic School in Norway and North Dickinson Elementary School in Felch. New to the program this year is Niagara Schools in Niagara, Wis.
Contributions to the YMCA’s Annual Fund help support the costs of the third grade swim program.

The YMCA pool recently re-opened after a mechanical failure caused a shutdown of more than a week back in March. The pool, which is nearly 50 years old, is the focus of the YMCA’s current Capital Campaign. A minimum goal of $2.4 million is needed to guarantee a complete rebuild of the pool and other enhancements to the locker rooms and fitness center.

Since launching a public campaign at the end of January for the final $650,000, the YMCA has received more than $400,000 in donations, leaving roughly $200,000 to raise. Donations to the campaign can be made by calling 774-4076 or visiting