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SWIM & LEARN, BY MARTY BLANDA

The “Swim and Learn” program of San Clemente was started in 2010 by Great Opportunities member Isabela Michelle Blanda. After growing up in San Clemente by Las Palmas school, being a student there and being in numerous swim programs she saw many of her friends from this area were not participating in them and many did not know how to swim. This was mainly due to the price of programs, the lack of knowing that at times scholarships were available and the registration process itself. Over the years she also had tutored in several locations, one being the San Clemente Boys and Girls club and saw many behind in their math skills and not because of learning disabilities but because of focus and not getting the chance to apply themselves. Because of what she saw and knowing the pool was available at certain times she made and submitted a proposal to the city of San Clemente combining a swim and math lesson (the math lessons she gave) at little or no cost to participants to address these problems. The program was embraced by the city and the first “Swim and Learn” program was born.

Swim and Learn started at the Ole Hanson Pool and was offered as a first come first served, walk in daily registration program for just one dollar. This was to address the above problems and obstacles which were keeping the local kids from learning how to swim. Michelle had to go to Las Palmas school, the Cinco de Mayo event and other programs to advertise the program. This was a great first start but time was limited. The first year walk in daily registrations were 220, the second year it more than doubled  with 450 then the Ole Hanson pool closed for repairs and the new Hermosa Aquatic  Center opened. With this came transportation problems for many of the children that had been participating. The city generously purposed to expand the program so the children received complete Red Cross swim lessons, receive and hour of education including math along with presentations they participate in including, Bullying, Recycling, How to make the World a better place to mention just some. Along with this buses would be needed to transport these kids to this new community facility. We suggested to use the successful ‘Fun on the Run” program which most of the children in the underserved community areas all ready participated in to expand  “Swim and Learns” reach to all parts of the city and use these points as the busses pick-up and drop off points. Scholarships would also be made available to these children. The complete summer program which is four Fridays starting in July serves a full bus of children (Approx. 65-70) and extra children are offered swim programs through the city with scholarships. The last day the parents are invited to join their children in an extra hour of fun for free so they to get introduced to the new Aquatic Center. This program is helping to include all children in San Clemente use this new beautiful community facility while teaching them how to swim and brush up on their math skills over the summer.

At Great Opportunities we do our best to have a no-kid left behind policy. We deal with hundreds of children each year who are left out in summer. We are proud to help sponsor and work with the City of San Clemente to continue the valuable “Swim and Learn” program so all children can participate in what this great city has to offer.

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