New Swim for Life Program kicks off at Greer Elementary

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- One of the best ways to cool off during the summer is by taking a dip in the pool, but summertime can be a deadly season for kids who don't know how to swim.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of five and 14.

This year, a school in Albemarle County is helping to make sure that doesn't happen to their students by letting kids take a splash in class.

Mary Carr Greer Elementary School students are diving right into summer. Thanks to a grant from the Benjamin Hair Just Swim for Life Program, school officials know their students are diving-in safely.

The swimming lessons are tied to the schools summer school program. For the next three weeks dozens of students will start their school day with a splash.

"Some of our students are just learning to put their face in the water," said Summer School Coordinator Christine Peterson. "Others are perfecting how to be calm and float on their back and learn about the proper strokes in the water."

It's completely free for the students, and school officials say many students wouldn't be able to have professional swimming lessons otherwise.

"A lot of our students, if you would ask them, have never participated in a swim lesson," said Peterson. "It's not something they've had access to."

Students like Genk Lilancheros say what they like most about the program is that she gets to learn with her schoolmates.

"I'm with people that I know more," said Lilancheros. "I can have fun with them."

She says what she learned could one day save her life.

"I learned to swim really good," said Lilancheros. "I also learned how to put my face in and how to not get water in my nose."

The BH-JSFL foundation set a goal to teach every at risk child in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area to swim, honoring the life of swimmer Ben Hair, who was killed in a car crash in 2009.

School officials say it's creating a legacy of more than just safe swimming.

"They end with smiles and confidence and really feeling that they've accomplished some goals," said Peterson.

The Greer program is just a pilot, but school officials say they hope to provide it at all 16 elementary schools next school year.

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