With the blessing and support of Charleston County School District Superintendent, Dr. Nancy McGinley, Swim Lessons University’s “Water Smart 101” curriculum is now being taught in every elementary school in Charleston, South Carolina since May 2012.
S.C. Representative Wendell Gilliard introduced legislation last year declaring May as Water Safety Awareness month in South Carolina. The resolution urges every public school in South Carolina to spend at least one hour of water safety instruction during the month of May. In the May 12th press conference, Gilliard stated that this one hour of instruction (Water Smart 101 Program) has very real potential to help save lives of our children. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, two children die every day from unintentional drowning. Drowning is the second cause of accidental death in children ages one to 14.
Representative Gilliard went on to say how excited he was that the Charleston Country School District would be implementing the “Water Smart 101 program,” designed by Swim Lessons University’s Jim Reiser, AKA “The Swim Professor.” Gilliard praised the “Water Smart 101” program in which he has reviewed first hand, and stated, “our students will have the opportunity to learn from a program designed by a true expert, and the children will learn these important lessons about both the pleasures and risks of the water.” Gilliard went on to say, “Charleston Country School District’s commitment to our youth by implementing this program should be commended. In closing, Gilliard URGED all school districts to please follow this example. He emphasized that simply by taking a few moments in the month of May to teach our children about water safety could make the difference in the life of a child.”
North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey then introduced Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley. She spoke, “This is not about just an event. This is about children’s lives. As superintendent of schools for the past five years, I must tell you that it is my saddest moment every spring when a tragedy occurs. Two years ago, on the night before the last day of school, I got a call on my cell phone about 9:00PM. One of our kindergarten students had drown, not far from here, in an apartment swimming pool. I went to his classroom the next morning. His teacher was in tears. The teacher’s assistant was in tears. The children were asking questions that no one wanted to answer. And I certainly did not know how to answer. They realized their classmate was gone. It will be forever in my brain.” They asked: “What does drown mean?” “Where did he go?”
The superintendent continued, “I asked the teacher if I could see some of his work. The children had produced little end of the year booklets. and she placed his booklet in my hand. I opened the first page. There was a crayon drawing of a swimming pool. The sentence he wrote below was: “I love to go swimming with my family.” Superintendent McGinley said, “I don’t know about you, but that got to me like few other things had ever gotten to me in my career.”
Superintendent McGinley went on to say, “We are here today because as adults in this community it’s time we join together and prevent tragedies like that from happening in the future. It is about preparing our children to be safe. I love the water. But I recognize the danger that the water involves for children who haven’t had swimming lessons OR learned precautionary preventative lessons like the ones that we’re about to implement in our schools (Water Smart 101 Curriculum) thanks to the Rutledge Foundation. After our testing ends, all of our elementary schools will be using the Water Smart program, teaching children about how to stay safe, cautioning students about the dangers. Not scaring them, but teaching them the correct respect for the water. I’ll be making a call to our 45,000 parents reminding them that this is Water Safety month. And I thank Representative Gilliard for doing this for our children. I agree with what Mayor Summey, Mayor Riley, and Mayor Swails said (all in attendance to support the water safety programs for Charleston’s students): “Today is an important day in the history of Charleston County. This is a day that we take yet another step forward in preserving our children’s lives and ensuring that they will enjoy this beautiful place we live without endangering themselves. Thanks to everybody for making this happen.”
The one-hour “Water Smart 101” program consists of a DVD Video that school teachers play for their kindergarten and elementary school students, as well as a PDF bundle that includes a Lesson Plan, Water Safety Promise (homework assignment that involves parental participation), and a Water Smart Exam. Both the DVD and PDF Bundle can be found on the Swim Lessons University website.
Mark Rutledge, President of the Logan Rutledge Children’s Foundation, then took the podium. “What became apparent a three years ago, to echo what Dr. McGinley said, is drowning has become a prominent thing in our community. We researched that and we found that there was a big gap, a very large gap in safe swimmers and teaching them how to swim, especially as it pertains to children who are in underprivileged situations. So we decided to focus our efforts on drowning prevention and learning how to swim. So for the past few years and with Dr. McGinley’s approval we did a grant with Charleston Country School District of $20,000 to promote learn to swim programs thru the school. but only about half of the funds were being utilized. One problem was that there was no formal learn to swim program. So in doing our due diligence, we decided with the momentum of the school program we needed to create one. So I consulted my good friend Shannon O’Brien, who has worked in the City of Charleston School District for many years, and is also the Elementary Athletic Liaison for the county. Shannon began researching swim programs and spent countless hours outside her normal work schedule to find out what we could do to implement a program where we could also track numbers. We wanted to find out how many kids were safe in the water, how many kids actually do learn to swim, and we wanted to implement a program in the county. Well, right in our backyard is Jim Reiser from Columbia, who is the executive director of Swim Lessons University, a nationally acclaimed program. So we have adopted his program, which is really the most incredible program as far as how children are progressed through an educational process from water safety to learn-to-swim, and actually if they reach this level, they can be “swim team ready.” So we adopted this program, and as you can see behind me, we have already started the Swim Lessons University Learn-to-Swim program, which began on the first of April last month. In 2012-2013, we should teach over a thousand kids how to swim, and our eventual goal is to hit the every elementary school in the whole county (45,000 kids).
Jim Reiser formally thanks the Low Country Aquatic Program (L.A.P.S.) and the Logan Rutledge Children’s Foundation for their support. President Mark Rutledge and Shannon O’Brien played a most significant role in bringing the Swim Lessons University LTS curriculum and the”Water Smart 101″ to Charleston. Reiser says, Mark and Shannon’s hard work and contributions to the program were instrumental, and because of them–thousands of children will learn to swim and be Water Smart!
The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim. Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.
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