The Wayland Water WarriorsPhoto credit: Boston Globe
In 2011, Wayland High School swimmers harnessed their passion for swimming and created the “Water Warriors” Program. These student athletes teach swimming and water safety lessons to METCO students from Boston. The high school students learned that many of these students were not participating in town wide aquatic activities and celebrations because they did not know how to swim. According to a study of six urban areas nationwide, nearly 70 percent of African-American children and nearly 60 percent of Latino/Hispanic children have no or low swimming skills. While drowning is the second cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 14, participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of drowning by 88 percent.
In the Water Warrior’s first year (2011), there were 30 METCO swimmers and 16 high school volunteers. The program has grown to 80 swimmers and 56 high school volunteers (2015) making the student-teacher ratio very low. In fact, the beginning swimmers have one-on-one instruction to ensure complete safety and maximize the learning/instructional experience. The Water Warriors program takes place over the span of 12 weeks from March to June. This free lesson program follows the American Red Cross Learn to Swim curriculum. During the lessons, swimmers work to improve their skills in the water and learn essential water safety skills. Some students will become comfortable letting go of the wall for the first time while others will swim their first length of the pool. The middle school participants set fitness goals by swimming “workouts” designed by high school swim team members. The excitement level of the swimmers is incredible during the lessons and we are hopeful to reach many of the swimmers’ goals each year.
Beyond the obvious health, fitness and water safety achievements that this program provides, it also brings many intangible benefits to the community. The high school volunteers learn to plan lessons, adapt them as needed, and take responsibility for the younger students’ progress and safety. The volunteers develop significant mentoring relationships with the younger, minority swimmers who look up to their instructors as exemplary role models and friends. The program fosters enthusiasm and friendship within a wide range of students, who would not have otherwise had the opportunity to interact.
Water Warriors is a member of the USA Swimming "Make A Splash" program - a nationwide learn to swim program.
Water Warriors in the NewsBoston Globe, May 2014
Wicked Local Wayland, June 2013
USA swimming, August 2011
Support the Water Warriors
The program has been funded to date by private donations, contributions from family foundations (family of Coach Barry Schwartz, Gladys Avery Foundation, Floyd Family Foundation) and The Village Bank. Tax deductible donations to support this program on an ongoing basis can be mailed to Wayland High School, c/o Water Warriors Club, 264 Old Connecticut Path, Wayland, MA 01778.For more information on the program, please contact Janet Schwartz at email@example.com.