Year after year, my wife, Joy, signed our three kids up for summer swim lessons at Highland Park and the West Family Y during the winter months. Our oldest, 14 year old Grace, took her first Mommy and Me classes at West Y pool at 6 months old. I remember watching Grace in the Highland Park baby pool for lessons like it was yesterday! Over the years, Grace advanced through every level of YMCA swim lessons, including diving last summer. Her passion for the pool motivated her to join Binghamton’s Modified Swimming and Diving Team. The swim program built her confidence and inspired other ambitions. She was very excited about the opportunity to become a YMCA Volunteer Swim Assistant this year. Grace is also a competitive dancer at the Fuse Dance Center and takes gymnastics for tumbling.

Parker, our 10 year old, also took multiple swim lessons sessions at the West Family YMCA and Highland Park every year. Parker also started in the baby pool and is now taking diving, when not playing soccer or swimming UNAC.

Our youngest, 6 year old Bennett, had a really rough start in preschool summer swim lessons at Highland Park in 2013. All the YMCA staff made Bennett feel safe and encouraged. Alex, the site supervisor, connected especially well and managed to put him more at ease. Alex said that was her first summer teaching for the Y and she was actually instructing Parker’s class. One of the other instructors brought Bennett over to her in hopes being with his brother might help him feel safe enough to attempt swimming. He made a little progress. When he returned the next summer, Alex offered to work one-on-one with Bennett.

Alex said, “My main goal was to just get him in the pool and swimming a little. I tried everything I could think of to get him in the water. I felt it was so important to make sure kids feel comfortable in the water and can swim. By the summer of 2015, Bennett improved his water skills, but would still only work with me. I found once we joined in with an actual class, we finally started to get somewhere!”

Alex went on to say, “Last summer I spent a lot of sessions instructing Grace and Parker in the competitive group. Then their mom aproached me about working with Bennett again to encourage him to work harder. Of course I said, ‘Yes!’ Bennett made so many improvements in his swimming and confidence level within the group. This summer he is even doing our diving class with Sara. We have so much fun watching him try new dives and his comical antics. His silly personality certainly took over once he conquerored his fears. But don’t worry, his sister Grace does not let him fool around too much now that she is a Teen Volunteer. Sara said she loves seeing how much he has improved over these past couple summers. I am so glad his parents kept bringing him back so we could continue working with him to achieve a comfortable level of swimming. Bennett and his family really helped me understand the important role I play in the kids’ lives who come to Highland Park year after year. I couldn’t be more proud of Bennett and his hard work!”

Matt said he and Joy were life guards and swim instructors many years ago. He guarded for Binghamton City pools and she was actually a YMCA swim instructor at Highland Park. They are grateful the 4 years Alex and the other staff worked with Bennett allowed him to develop the confidence to learn to dive like his siblings. They are also pleased Grace wants to take swim instructor classes and train to be a life guard just like them!

Because of the YMCA, now their whole family can,”Just keep swimming!”