For the second consecutive year, Sweet Briar College hosted SwimAmerica Learning to Swim for Health and Safety, a national program established to teach children to swim. Locally, Sweet Briar’s varsity swimming coach, Bonnie Kestner directs the program.
The program, a joint effort between Sweet Briar College; the Amherst County Department of Recreation and Parks; the Amherst County Public Schools Educational Foundation, led by Melody Brown; and Amherst County Public Schools, received funding from the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust to enable financially challenged children in Amherst County to participate in the program. The funding awarded met the need for all scholarships.
“Many of these children would not travel to the YMCA in Lynchburg or could not afford lessons if it were not for the scholarships,” said Kestner. “It is gratifying to see Sweet Briar and Amherst County Public Schools work together to provide this opportunity and scholarships for children to learn how to swim who would not otherwise have the opportunity.”
The program taught 159 children between the ages of 4-15 to swim over a four-week period in May. The children learn the basics of exchanging air, floating and gliding and are gradually introduced to freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. SwimAmerica defines a proficient swimmer as someone who can swim 12 lengths of the pool.
Before the program begins, Kestner trains the coaches, who include local students, residents and Sweet Briar students. This year five coaches had connections to the College, including two students Mandi Ponton ’05 and Brandy Stinnette ’06, as well as William Fritzler, Mia Magruder and Giulia Witcombe, all of whom are children of faculty and staff members.