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Curtis Strange Elementary School students receive free swim lessons at Kenosha YMCA

Posted at 3:34 PM, Jun 28, 2022

KENOSHA, Wis. — Wisconsin lakes and pools are destinations for many even as communities face an ongoing lifeguard shortage.

A partnership in Kenosha began teaching nearly 60 elementary school students how to swim for free on Tuesday.

Beautiful lakes and pools draw kids and families each year despite an ongoing lifeguard shortage, but the potential for drownings is an ugly reality.

It is a big reason why dozens of kids from Curtis Strange Elementary School dove right into their first swim lesson at the Kenosha YMCA.

"We practice fire drill with the kids. We practice tornado drills with the kids so they know what to do in the situations. We have to put water safety in that same category."

Thanks to a donor the YMCA, American Red Cross of Wisconsin, and Kenosha Unified School District teamed up to offer swim lessons for kids at no cost. Typically, lessons can cost between $20-$50 per person. Their efforts were put on pause when the pandemic hit so Tuesday was the first time they took off.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among kids ages 1-14.

"This is a toe in the water. This is kids realizing situational awareness, what to do what not to do around a body of water, how to ask for help," said Justin Kern, communications director for the American Red Cross of Wisconsin.

"I didn't really know how to swim, and I thought I was gonna get hurt or something," 9-year-old Jennah Roscioli said.

Roscioli was nervous at the beginning, but in the end, was glad she stuck it out.

"It was cold but the ladies were really nice and it was really fun to be here," Roscioli said.

"We got to prove to a lot of kids they didn't think they could swim and today they're going to leave knowing they can. Something we can build off of," said Jonathan Bar-Din, principal at Curtis Strange Elementary.

Soon-to-be 10-year-old Jalyssa Thomas said the pool was a nice change from her small inflatable one at home. She was eager to come back.

"I feel like we're gonna keep learning more stuff and we might get to just swim one day," Thomas said.

Organizers hope to expand their program. Meanwhile, there are ways to find swim lessons at reduced rates on the Kenosha YMCA's website and on the Red Cross' website.

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