Swimming like fish

Helen Haller Elementary student Rene Flores, 7, was anxious.

The second-grader had never gone swimming before and his teacher, Deborah Helsell, said he was worried he couldn’t do it.

“He was walking around the class saying ‘I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous,’” Helsell recalled. Flores nodded in agreement.

Many of Flores’ classmates echoed his anxiety about jumping into the Sequim Aquatics Recreation Center pool for two weeks of swimming lessons. About half the class admitted they didn’t know how to swim before the classes began on May 6.

“When we started I was really scared,” said 8-year-old Greta Himmelberger.

After their first lesson, however, Helsell said the students were hooked.

“I could see that I could do it,” said student Ian Miller, still in awe.

The children, who are divided into groups by previous skill, are taught the basics of swimming, floating and water safety.

SARC director Sue Jacobs said the center has been teaming up with elementary teachers on and off for many years, depending on funding and pool availability and she believes in the program fully.

“I truly believe every child should know how to swim, especially in this area which is surrounded by water,” Jacobs said. “We believe this is a very valuable program to our community.”

For Helsell, who has seen several second-grade classes through the swimming program, the effects are more than the ability to be safe around water — she said the skills the students learn often spill over into the classroom.

“What I’ve noticed about the kids is that they grow so much in self-confidence after this,” Helsell said. “I really notice how much more sure of themselves they are.”

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