2016-11-03 / Around Town

Learning to Swim is Life-changing

By James Merolla


Second-graders from Pell Elementary School are enthusiastic about their swim lessons at the Boys & Girls Club. Second-graders from Pell Elementary School are enthusiastic about their swim lessons at the Boys & Girls Club. Starting this fall, all Newport second graders will receive swimming lessons and basic water safety instruction, due to a newly-formed partnership between the Pell Elementary School, the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County, and the Newport County YMCA.

Nine groups of second-graders are expected to visit one of the two sites once a week during the school day for a four-week long swimming session. Classes that started in October are expected to run until May 2017.

“It is very exciting to know that all students in our schools will now have the opportunity to learn how to swim and be able to enjoy our beautiful beaches and waters here in Newport,” said school Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain. “This was a dream of one our retired nurses, Lillian Hargrove. Her passion and commitment to this idea for all Newport children was the driving force behind the initiative.”

Hargrove met with Jermain when the superintendent first took the helm in Newport, sharing statistics linking knowing how to swim with the health, safety, and welfare of children in a seaside community.

“Lillian shared stories of children never going to the beach, or never enjoying our beautiful harbor because they did not know how to swim,” said Jermain. “It took only one meeting with our partners at the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and Principal Behan and her team [at Pell]. All agreed on what a life-changing impact this can and will have on our students and families.”

Now, she added, “everyone can enjoy all Newport has to offer.”

“It is so rewarding to have a dream come true,” said Hargrove. “The rest of the dream is when the Rogers High School swim teams see the results of this beginning.”

Kimberly Behan, recently appointed assistant superintendent of Newport Schools, was principal at Pell when the program was mapped out. “This is a perfect pairing of community support — enriching our students and supporting our curriculum about living on an island. And about how to be safe while exploring our island resources,” Behan said. “I am proud to be part of this project and working side by side with Newport YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County.”

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