While visiting family, Connie Armendariz watched her ten-year-old granddaughter during her swim lessons at the YMCA. “I was so amazed at watching how great of a swimmer she became,” shared Connie. “I remember telling my daughter that my biggest regret was that I never pushed myself to go and learn. I was just too scared.”
When she was in her youth, Connie was pushed into a pool by other kids. “I didn’t know the first thing about swimming or even floating. I was with my cousin, I remember, and she was yelling out to the lifeguards that I didn’t know how to swim, so they pulled me out. After that, I was terrified of the water.”
Drowning is the fifth leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States and the leading cause of accidental death in children under five years of age.1 Over one-third of Americans reported that they have limited swimming ability with an even higher rate in underserved populations.2 With these stark facts, the Y believes teaching water safety is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
“It took years for me to push myself to go to the Y because I didn’t know where else to go. My granddaughter was my biggest motivator,” shared Connie, “She told me, ‘You can do it. I know you can do it!’ and that’s how I got started.”
The San Bernardino YMCA is where Connie headed, she was familiar with the Y, and it was close to home. “I felt very comfortable going there,” shared Connie. Getting in the pool with an instructor for swim lessons was her next big step. “I told them from the very beginning that ‘I don’t know the first thing about floating, so just be patient with me,’ and they were, they were very helpful.”
Teaching adults to swim is about understanding their fears, says Roshelle Ogden, Aquatics Director for the YMCA of the East Valley. Instructors help build their students’ confidence by teaching them how to control their bodies to master the water.
As students progress, many seem almost to revert back to childhood, no longer fearful of the water they feel they can finally enjoy that pool party, beach trip, or family vacation they missed having fun at. “They actually get to be a kid again, and it is really fun to see,” said Roshelle.
Connie loved her time in the pool with her swim instructors. “They’d encourage me; they would lead me and guide me, and everything I did, they made it easier for me. At the end of the lesson, they made me feel good about myself.”
“They took the fear away from me. I learned how to float and how to turn over, and I was shocked. I was amazed I could do that.” Connie was even able to swim across the pool with help. “They gave me confidence.”
“It was very relaxing, and it helped me with my stress,” said Connie. “When I would come home, I was so relaxed. I felt better after. I just felt good about myself.”
As a senior with a SilverSneakers® membership and living with a fixed income, the cost of lessons became a hardship for Connie. “I’m on a budget, and it was getting hard for me. I was going every week, and it was hard for me. I felt I had to stop because I couldn’t afford it.”
Connie shared her struggles with the San Bernardino Y staff; they informed her of our Financial Assistance Program. Connie applied and was able to receive help with paying for her classes. “If it weren’t for the assistance, I would have had to stop.”
With the help of your donations, we can bridge the gap in swim lessons and water safety education across the East Valley—especially in underserved communities. At the Y, we know that to create a community of strong swimmers, we need to eliminate financial and social barriers that limit many from learning these life-saving skills.
“If it wasn’t for the Y, where else would you go to learn how to swim?
I don’t know where I would have gone.” Connie said, “They made me feel like it is never too late.”
1 in 4 nonfatal adult drownings happen in a swimming pool.3
- “Drowning — United States, 2005–2009”. 2011. Cdc.Gov. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6119a4.htm?s_cid=mm6119a4_w#fig.
- Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. 1995. Self-Reported Swimming Ability In US Adults, 1994. Image. “Drowning — United States, 2005–2009”. 2020. Cdc.Gov. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6119a4.htm?s_cid=mm6119a4_w#fig.
- “Drowning — United States, 2005–2009”. 2011. Cdc.Gov.