An Evanston 150 pilot program offers free swimming lessons for second-graders. Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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Pilot program Evanston Swims! was launched on Oct. 3, 2012, with more than 100 students from Evanston/Skokie District 65. Its goal is to teach all Evanston children how to swim. This project began through Evanston150, an initiative in partnership with School District 65, the McGaw Y and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

The program involves second-graders from three elementary schools – Oakton, Washington and Dawes – who receive free swimming and water safety lessons once a month. Free transportation is provided.

On May 1, second-grade students from Washington School were completing their seventh and final week of Evanston Swims! Jay Katzman, a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, taught half of the students about water safety while the other half of the class participated in swimming lessons. Then the classes switched, ensuring that all students not only swam but learned valuable lessons about water safety. The swimming lessons were taught by the Coast Guard’s Mr. Katzman and Jeannette Hollingsworth from the McGaw Y. The students were animated, interested and very focused during their class sessions and their swimming lessons. During the swim lessons, the one-to-one interaction with the swimming instructors appeared to be confidence-building for every child.

Ms. James indicated that if the pilot program is successful, Evanston Swims! will expand to all second-grade students. In order for Evanston Swims! to continue, resources are needed. Donations are being accepted through the Evanston Community Foundation.