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Take the plunge and learn to swim

College offering free adult swim classes in April

Learn to Swim

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults can’t swim 25 yards (the typical length of a lap pool), and 10 adults drown each day in our country. With the onset of spring and summer just around the corner, pools, lakes and beaches will start to open for recreation. For those who can’t swim, water poses a limitation and drowning risk.

If you’re one of these adults, there’s good news. The charitable arm of U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS), the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, has declared April as Adult Learn-to-Swim Month (ALTS).

Since 2011, the foundation has awarded grant funding to train instructors and offer adult swim programs across the country in an effort to reduce drownings. Oregon State University is one of those organizations, and the college’s Faculty Staff Fitness program is offering its second community swim program this April.

This free course is open to any adult 18 years of age or older and will take place on the following days from 5-5:50 p.m. at the Langton Hall pool on OSU’s campus.

  • Tuesday, April 4
  • Thursday, April 6
  • Tuesday, April 11
  • Thursday, April 13
  • Tuesday, April 18
  • Thursday, April 20

These classes are geared specifically at teaching adults, which requires a different approach than teaching children to swim. Instructors are trained in methods that will help adults feel at ease in the pool.

“Traditional swim-instructor training is focused on teaching children,” says Bill Brenner, USMS’ chief operating officer. “We know that when adults learn to swim, it makes a lasting impact, since adults who swim tend to also enroll their children in swim lessons.”

Success stories from the pool

More than 15 participants learned to swim during last year’s inaugural program at OSU, including a handful of international students. All students who completed the program are now able to swim 25 yards on their own and some are now participating in water sports and have conquered a fear that once kept them out of the water.


Gaby in the pool during a learn-to-swim class last year

“Although all my friends and siblings could swim, I never learned to swim when I was young,” says Gaby, a student who participated in last year’s program. “When we got older, they would go in the deep end and I couldn’t follow them and had to hang out in the kiddie pool. Learning to swim has helped me hang with my peers and not feel embarrassed in the pool. I even signed up for this class with two other girlfriends so we could all learn to swim together.”

“In India where I am from, we were never really exposed to water in my family,” says Prajwal, a 28-year-old PhD student. “Then twice, I almost drowned. I decided to take this class to conquer my fear.”

“I really like to do paddle boarding, and not being able to swim is problematic,” says Aren, another student from last year’s program. “Learning how to swim gives me the opportunity to continue doing things I am passionate about.”


Prajwal is much more confident in the water after taking swim classes

OSU’s ALTS coordinator and instructor, Drew Ibarra, says it brings him great joy to see individuals dedicate themselves to accomplishing a goal and then succeed.

“I love that we provide physical activity programming in so many different areas for students and faculty, and the ALTS program is one area I feel we truly help to provide a service to the institution and community,” says Drew, who is also director of the college’s academic physical activity program.

“Through the curriculum, our instructors are changing individuals’ lives not only by opening a door into an area they never thought they could succeed, but also helping address the public health issue of drowning. We are very grateful for the USMS’ support, which has allowed us to expand this program and reach more people.”