YMCA, JPS Teach Water Safety

A collaborative effort between Jamestown Public Schools and the Jamestown YMCA helped students to learn about water safety.

On Wednesday, second-graders from Ring Elementary School participated in the Y’s Aquatic Safety Day to learn ways to help themselves and others around water and ice.

The program was hosted at the Y’s upper pool, where the students learned about three distinct water-safety components: rules and personal safety, helping others, and boating safety. The two-hour program was chiefly run by Jason Chinni, aquatics director, and Maria Roehmholdt, assistant aquatics director.

According to Roehmholdt, who is also the ASD program coordinator, collaboration with JPS for the program is in its fifth year.

“Every second-grader in (JPS) comes through,” she said. “The Y pays for the program itself, and the school district pays for the busing to come here. They send (the students) in, and we teach them every aspect of water safety, (such as) rescues and boating safety. We stress that they can’t jump in, it’s only lifeguards, and adults should always be present.”

During the program, students learned that they should never jump in a body of water to attempt to save somebody. Rather, they were taught to employ items on-hand to retrieve someone from the water, such as poles or flotation devices of any kind. The students were then divided up into groups before getting in the water themselves to experience these rescue techniques firsthand.

Roehmholdt said the concept behind the ASD program came about through a personal experience she had.

“I had one of my kid’s friends in my backyard, who jumped in (the pool) with his lifejacket on, because he was terrified of the water,” she said. “And I had to jump in and rescue him, because he was absolutely terrified even with the life jacket. At that point, I said, ‘We have to do something, because there are too many kids that are not exposed to water.'”

She added: “We’ve discovered that about 85 to 90 percent of the kids that come through don’t know how to swim, have never been exposed to the water and don’t have any clue what to do if something were to go wrong. So, as a safety aspect, this is their exposure. And with water being so close in Chautauqua County, it’s all over the place.”

The students also donned lifejackets to experience for themselves how they work. A rowboat was also implemented to demonstrate boat safety and what to do if someone falls overboard.

Marcella Centi, a second-grade teacher at Ring, said the ASD program provides her students with valuable information they would not otherwise receive.

“(The Y) is wonderful to work with,” she said. “It’s probably the easiest field trip, from our end, to plan, and the program itself is phenomenal. I’ve seen kids come in that are petrified of the water, and (Jason) has just this magical way about him that gets them in the water, and soothes some nerves and teaches them some wonderful things. It’s not necessarily (teaching) swimming, it’s what to do to be safe around water.”

At the end of the program, the students received participation lanyards, a booklet outlining for parents what the students learned and a coloring book reiterating safety techniques for the students.

By the end of the school year, the ASD program will have educated 1,400 JPS students about water safety.