Free third grade swim lessons return

Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center aquatic director Tanner Walsh (far right) instructs Niagara Elementary School students from Daniel Krznarich’s fourth grade class during a lesson at the NLYMCA pool Monday morning.

IRON MOUNTAIN – Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center’s annual third grade swim program has returned this month, with a twist.

With the pandemic cancelling the program in 2020, the YMCA this year is teaching all area third and fourth graders how to swim.

“Those in third grade in 2020 missed out on the program, so we wanted to make sure those children still receive their lessons,” NLYMCA aquatics director Tanner Walsh said. “We’ve doubled our programming, with the fourth graders swimming the rest of this month and the third graders coming during the normal time we hold the lessons in March and April.”

Teaching area children how to swim has become one of the most important programs the YMCA offers to the community. Now in its fifth year, the combination of third and fourth graders means the YMCA will provide free swim lessons to more than 500 kids during the next few months.

A grant received from Dickinson County’s 100+ Women Who Care two years ago along with money from the YMCA Annual Campaign help fund the program. The YMCA covers the cost of pool time, staffing and transportation for program participants.

Each class of students receive five 40-minute lessons as part of the YMCA program. In addition to the swim lessons, the YMCA aquatics staff also introduces the kids to boat safety, lifejacket fit, proper water attire as well as sun and heat safety.

 “This program is so important in our region of lakes and rivers, where water safety is so crucial,” Walsh said. “Participation in swim lessons greatly reduces the risk of drowning, and we feel like we are really making a difference for our community.

“And we’re also introducing kids to another activity for which they may develop a passion. Our program has been around long enough that we now have graduates starting to reach high school and joining the swim team.”

The children taking part in the program 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, North Dickinson Elementary School in Felch, Niagara Schools in Niagara, Wis., and Florence Elementary School in Florence, Wis.

With the cancellation in 2020, this year’s program is the first to occur in the YMCA’s newly renovated pool, which was completed in late 2019.

The YMCA’s Annual Campaign is currently underway. Supporters can stop by the Y or call 774-4076 for information on how to donate. Along with the third grade swim program, YMCA Annual Campaign dollars provide programming and membership assistance to hundreds in the community.

Donations can also be made online at:

Niagara Elementary School students from Daniel Krznarich’s fourth grade class enjoy some time in the water during Monday’s free lessons at Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center.