Swim instructor Paige Sahab offered two weeks of free swim lessons to 15 Pinecrest Elementary students.

The Campo Family YMCA has partnered with 15 students from Pinecrest Elementary School’s Head Start program to offer two weeks of swim lessons to the preschool-aged swimmers.

Through funding by Hillsborough County, Pinecrest Elementary was able to transport the students to the Campo Y each morning from Monday through Thursday at the beginning of May.

“They might not be able to come to swim lessons another way. So, I want to make the most of it because it’s not just that [the lessons] are free, but it’s that the school district is getting them here because transportation is a big barrier,” said swim instructor Paige Sahab. “The fact that the district gets them here is a big benefit of the program.”

The students were broken into three groups of five students based on their swimming experience and skill level. Sahab took each group into the pool for a half hour to work with the students individually.

“We talk about water safety: always asking permission before you go in the water, never swimming without a grown-up, and things like that,” explained Sahab.

The younger kids work on basics, like floating and kicking in the water, and older, more experienced kids are working on swimming short distances.

“I just feel like every kid that we can get swimming is another potential tragedy avoided. So, I see it as we’re saving lives here,” said Sahab.

This is Sahab’s first year working as an instructor at the Y, but she has been working with local recreation centers and pools for 15 years.

“I love that we’re doing this with the Head Start kids,” said Sahab. “I think that it’s wonderful, and I just felt like people needed to know that we are doing this.”

The funding from Hillsborough County allowed 10 Tampa YMCAs to host lessons across the spring and fall semesters. In the fall, the Campo Y hopes to host three or four more Head Start programs from local schools.

The Head Start program is a free public-school program that offers specialized education to kids from ages 3 to 5 years old in low-income families. Teachers work with a small number of kids to maximize their development before beginning grade school.

For more information on the Y and its swimming programs, visit www.tampaymca.org.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.