Ballard students swim through classes

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2005

By By RANDI PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
Second grade students at Ballard Elementary have been learning water safety through a school sponsored program in conjunction with the Niles YMCA Family Center.
Each morning they are transported by school bus to the Y's swimming pool area where they don swimsuits and line up pool side for lessons in how to swim, especially how to swim safely.
The sessions run from 9:30 until 10:45 a.m. each morning for a two week period. Each second grade at Ballard gets a separate a two week program.
Parents are encouraged to volunteer to help in the locker room and pool side. Michael Frantz of Niles, whose son, Justin, is in Mrs. Marisa Wieger's 2nd grade class, is enthusiastic about the swim program and is pleased to see Justin doing well in the program.
Justin, when asked what he liked best about the swim class, said, "Everything." Justin added, "In the summertime we swim in our neighbor's pool," but he also likes to swim at Silver Beach in St. Joseph and plans to put the lessons he learned at the YMCA to good use.
Andre' Gresham, known as "Mr. Andre'" to the kids, is an instructor, along with Julie Collins, who focuses on the beginning swimmers. The more advanced children work at the deep end of the pool swim with Jon Meseraull, better known as "Mr. Jon."
Instructor Meseraull, who has been sharing his knowledge of the sport with youngsters for 10 years, is enthusiastic about the student's abilities. "We teach basic strokes and the eight basic safety rules,"Meseraull said. According to Meseraull, even the most timid children enjoy the classes. "I've never had a child not get into the pool," he said.
Then he turns to his "Dolphins" and announces, "30 bobs … get going, get going," then "all the way under, now."
Students bring swimsuits and towels and the Y provides blue plastic swim boards which serve as both a flotation aid and as a seat for the edge of the pool while waiting their turn.
On the first day of the session, students learn pool rules and watch a video about water access and the eight basic safety rules.
Students are divided into three levels of skill: "Seals," who learn "reach and pull" and intermediate swimmers, "Stingrays," who practice front crawl and back stroke. More advanced students, "Dolphins" who study the back crawl, are able to swim the length of the pool, and also learn the breast stroke.