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YWCA Flying Fish Aquatics is widely known for its outreach efforts, so when the Schuler Foundation called asking if Flying Fish could provide swim instruction to its students, the Schuler Scholars, it was not 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 but 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 lfew 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 is aligned with their own.

Schuler Scholars started coming two summers ago, and this summer, students will 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 with Pete Caragher, director of Flying Fish Aquatics. The scholars participate in lessons together, a dynamic that Mr. Weidmann believes contributes to their success. However, the Scholars are only in the pool for two weeks, which does not give them much time with the YWCA aquatics staff.

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

“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.”