WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The brutal heat Monday had Waterbury residents headed to their closest city pool. The heat happened to arrive on the first day of the city’s “Learn to Swim” program, which provides free swimming lessons to hundreds of city kids with the goal of avoiding a tragedy in the water.
It’s what had city pool lifeguard Laerk Ndreko teaching some basic swimming fundamentals to a 13-year-old named Edwin at the Washington Park city pool, which just opened last weekend.
“I teach them how to have confidence in the water,” he said. “Don’t be scared of trying to learn how to swim.”
As the lesson continued, Waterbury’s Supervisor of Recreation described to News 8 some of the other things Laerk was teaching Edwin.
“How to submerge his head underwater while swimming and come up for air. A lot of kids don’t know that,” said Victor Cuevas. “They don’t know how to breathe in and blow out underwater, come back up, grab some air, and go back down, and that allows them to move further and tread water further when it comes to public safety and them surviving in the water in a real emergency situation so they don’t panic.”
Laerk told News 8, for him, being a lifeguard is a way to give back to his community — a community that taught him how to swim at Kennedy High School when he was 10-years-old.
“I love helping out the community so I like helping these kids to swim,” he said.
The same “Learn to Swim” program that helped Laerk got kicking with its first day of this summer’s session.
The City Rec Department is hosting morning and afternoon sessions at Kennedy High School, the Police Activities League (PAL) hosting lessons in the middle of the day. More Rec Department free lessons in the afternoon. All of this, in addition to the free lesson at the Greater Waterbury YMCA downtown next to the Waterbury Green.
This summer, the city hopes “Learn to Swim” reaches hundreds of urban kids, giving them the skills they need to stay safe in the water.
“Many of these kids don’t have people to teach them,” Laerk said. “So, I like helping them out.”