YWCA Flying Fish Aquatics is widely known for their outreach efforts, so when the Schuler Foundation called asking if they could provide swim instruction to their students, the Schuler Scholars, it wasn’t unusual. What is unusual is the age of the students and the distance they needed to travel to a find a program that could accommodate them.

Schuler Scholars are bright, motivated, and otherwise underserved high school students who will often be the first generation in their families to attend college.

As part of the program, Schuler Scholars are required to attend a summer camp. Since the camp includes water activities, leaders surveyed their students in the spring and discovered that many of them had little or no swimming skills. In their search for a program that would meet their needs, they were referred to the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, whose mission was aligned with their own.

Schuler Scholars started coming two summers ago, and this summer, students come to the YWCA for swim instruction from three schools: North Chicago High School, Cristo Rey High School (Waukegan), and Crane Tech High School (West Loop), all of which are 20 or more miles away. Students from each school are bused to the YWCA for a 45 minute lesson four times a week for two weeks.

“With older kids like the Schuler Scholars, especially in a group of pretty great and motivated kids, you see quick improvement in their swimming skills,” says Seth Weidmann, who oversees the program at the YWCA along with Pete Caragher, Director of Flying Fish Aquatics. The Scholars participate in lessons together, a dynamic that Seth believes contributes to their success. However, the Scholars are only they’re in the pool for two weeks, which doesn’t give them much time working with the YWCA aquatics staff.

“The goal after two weeks is to have a little bit more comfort and safety in the water,” continues Seth.

“In the end, a healthy fear of and respect for the water in key. The program is designed for the Scholars to know how to lean back and relax, float and try to tread water and reach the side. Really it’s learning to be comfortable in the water, knowing what your limits are, and knowing how to keep yourself safe.”

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About YWCA Flying Fish Aquatics

With 1300 children in the learn-to-swim program and over 500 swimmers on the team, Flying Fish Aquatics is one of the biggest aquatics programs in Illinois. 175 Learn-to-Swim classes are offered each week in two pools, taught by consistent, professional adult instructors in small classes.

With both competitive and non-competitive tracks, the team has swimmers competing at the highest levels, but also accommodates swimmers who are primarily interested in recreation and fitness, providing a healthy outlet for children who are not ready to commit to the intensity of competitive swimming.

YWCA Flying Fish Aquatics actively reaches out to members of the community who might not otherwise have an opportunity to learn to swim or to participate on the swim team, and provides thousands of dollars of aquatics scholarships each year to families who cannot afford the cost of lessons for their children.