Back in the pool: Dive into Thrive program holds swim lessons for second season

Published 11:40 am Monday, June 20, 2022

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MONTEVALLO – Learning to swim is a priceless skill, and this spring, a group of local residents mastered the basics of swimming with the help of college students.

A program called Dive into Thrive offered Thrive Together Shelby County participants an opportunity to take swim lessons from members of the University of Montevallo Swim Team.

“Dr. Jermaine Mitchell was pivotal in getting this program started in 2020, finding funding for swim gear for the participants, and researching and writing grants to keep the program going in 2022,” Shelby Emergency Assistance Director Amanda Fowler said. “His motivation was to help those in rural areas, especially African American families, in understanding water safety and learning to swim.”

Mitchell was preparing to lead Dive into Thrive when he died in February 2021.

“His passing was a huge loss to our community,” Fowler said. “Dr. Mitchell is deeply missed by the Thrive Together Shelby County program. We are glad to carry on his legacy with the Dive into Thrive Swim Program.”

Mitchell served on the advisory council for Thrive Together Shelby County, a two-generational program that operates at Shelby Emergency Assistance and serves single mothers in Shelby County who are working toward bettering their families.

The program’s key focus areas are health and wellness, education, career readiness and performance, parenting and financial literacy.

Dive into Thrive resumed this year after not being held last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, Dive into Thrive only lasted three sessions due to COVID, so it is difficult to say if it has grown,” Fowler said. “We do know that it has, and will continue to be, very meaningful to our participants, which is why we want community support.”

Fowler said UM Swim Team head coach Aaron Mahaney has been especially supportive of the initiative and has worked closely with SEA to carry on the program after the loss of Mitchell.

“We still wanted to help out any way we could to keep that program going,” Mahaney said. “We’re hoping we can build it and grow it and get more people involved next year.”

Mahaney, who came to UM in 2018, said he and Mitchell were both members of the Boys and Girls Club of Montevallo Advisory Board, and Mitchell shared his idea with Mahaney of starting a program for Thrive Together families to have access to free swim lessons.

“He set it up, and I supplied the volunteers,” Mahaney said, noting Dive into Thrive gave his athletes an enjoyable opportunity to give back to the community. “It falls right in line with our team mission and goals. It’s not just about the swimming; we do a lot of community service. The team loves it, too.”

Mahaney said a major benefit of the program is it provides swim lessons not only for children, but also adults involved in Thrive Together.

“We also offer lessons to the parents,” Mahaney said. “Water safety education for everyone is something that’s big for us in the swimming world.”

According to Fowler, nearly 20 participants were active in Dive into Thrive over the course of eight weeks in March and April this year.

“A few young participants successfully learned to swim,” Fowler said. “Thrive Together is looking to fund and implement the program again in 2023, partnering alongside the University of Montevallo.”

Mahaney said those involved in Dive into Thrive are simply trying to advance it in hopes of carrying out Mitchell’s wishes.

“We were just being supportive of his vision and what he was trying to do,” Mahaney said. “We hope we can live up to the expectations he had for the program.”