Summer Parks Program goes indoors to swim

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- 28 children left their yellow school bus and marched on a straight line into the YMCA in Niles Wednesday afternoon.
For a brief moment they halted by the front desk, seemingly disciplined and well-ranked.
It almost looked like they were on a mission.
But as soon as the children taking part in the city's Summer Parks program arrived at their final destination, order and discipline seemed gone.
In this instance, that is only as it should be.
Because how ecstatic wouldn't you be as a child knowing you were within seconds going to dip your toes in a cool swimming pool on a hot summer day.
He is in charge of the pool when the city's Summer Parks program visits the YMCA once every two weeks.
Gresham said many children don't have a chance to visit the lake during summer, which makes coming to the swimming pool the next best thing.
Apart from explaining the YMCA's basic swimming pool rules, Gresham said he offers no instruction during the Summer Parks program.
But he does keep an extra careful eye on those allowed to enter the pool's deep end.
He hopes the experience the children get from spending time in the pool will encourage them to come back and take swimming classes.
While some of the children were doing what most children do when they are in or around water – splashing, jumping and giggling – others were a little more hesitant; some maybe even a little sceptical of the new environment.
Demarquis Brann, however, showed no signs of fear for the wet element.
He was perhaps among the braver children in the pool Wednesday.
Derek Janke, a sophomore who studies education at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, and Rachel Bella, who studies education at Southwestern Michigan College, are employed by the city to oversee the summer parks program.
They were also in charge of the children Wednesday.
Bella and Janke both think the experience they get working with the children will benefit them once they start teaching.
Janke said it's his first year with the program and he's enjoying it.
Bella, who is the program supervisor, said it's also her first year on the summer parks program.
She enjoys it because she gets to work with kids that have different backgrounds.
When the students aren't in the water, they do many other activities.
Bella said the summer parks program starts at 9 a.m.
During the first hour the children play board games and cards, she said.
She said from 10 to 11 a.m., they do crafts or play organized sports, such as soccer, baseball or dodge ball.
Each Friday the children go on a field trip to different locations in the surrounding area.

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