Galloway encourages MVES special needs students to swim

Published 3:20 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Instructor Katie Guiser encourages Antonio Romero as he jumps into the pool at the Alabaster YMCA on Nov. 9. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Instructor Katie Guiser encourages Antonio Romero as he jumps into the pool at the Alabaster YMCA on Nov. 9. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

ALABASTER—Although Monday, Nov. 9, was cloudy and gray, the Alabaster YMCA pool was full of laughter and bright smiles, as four Meadow View Elementary School students with special needs kicked off their first day of Learn to Swim.

Learn to Swim is a YMCA program, specifically designed to introduce children to swimming. Through a partnership between the Alabaster City School System and the Alabaster YMCA, each second-grade classroom receives an intensive one-week Learn to Swim course free of charge.

“We believe that swimming is a really important skill to learn,” YMCA of Greater Birmingham President and CEO Stan Law said. “It’s been a great partnership to work with the schools.”

Monday’s class was a special edition of Learn to Swim, as former Dancing with the Stars finalist and retired U.S. Army Sgt. Noah Galloway joined the students in the pool. Galloway lost his left arm and leg in a bomb blast while serving in Iraq. Despite his injuries, Galloway has maintained a healthy lifestyle. He was named the 2014 Men’s Health Ultimate Guy and placed third in the 20th season of Dancing with the Stars.

“I just called Noah and asked (him to come),” Alabaster YMCA Youth Sports Director Chris Honeycutt said. “I just wanted these children to see Noah and get some encouragement.”

In addition to encouragement from Galloway, each student was paired with an instructor for one-on-one coaching.

“We are bringing them in on a smaller scale this week,” Honeycutt said, noting most Learn to Swim classes see between 20 and 25 students in the pool. “Each one of them is getting individualized instruction.”

With the assistance of their instructors, students moved from one end of the pool to the other and gradually became more comfortable and confident in the water.

“The children that are here today have very special qualifications and needs,” MVES Principal Rachea Simms said. “This is truly a partnership for Alabaster City Schools… They’re using the YMCA to teach life skills.”

This is the second year of the Learn to Swim program in Alabaster City Schools. At the end of the school year, each second-grader will have received one week of swimming lessons through the program.

“If we save one kid’s life, or we teach them the skills to prevent them from having a water incident, then its well worth it,” Honeycutt said.