07/26/09 — Volunteer makes sure children have a chance to learn how to swim

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Volunteer makes sure children have a chance to learn how to swim

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 26, 2009 2:00 AM

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Josh Chappell, left, works with Rhoit Turebylu, 5, during a swim lesson at the Family YMCA. Chappell, 16, also volunteered to teach children whose parents could not afford lessons, and through an arrangement between the Y and Partnership for Children of Wayne County, will lead classes for the next two weeks at Mina Weil Pool.

Josh Chappell is making a difference -- one swimmer at a time.

The 16-year-old is offering free swimming lessons for Wayne County youth this summer through the YMCA.

Growing up, Josh always liked being in the water. After taking a lifeguarding course, he worked last summer at the YMCA pool in Mount Olive.

At the same time, he needed community service hours as part of a graduation requirement at the N.C. School of Science and Math, where he will be a senior. So he worked as a volunteer in the summer school program at Carver Elementary School.

Right away, he enjoyed the interaction.

"For the most part, (children) are always willing to learn," he said. "It's just a good experience whenever they get something. It's very rewarding to see how far they come."

Returning home this summer, he found a job at the Goldsboro Family Y, teaching swimming lessons. And even though he had already completed his community service hours, he knew there was something more he wanted to do.

"The idea came to me that maybe I could give swimming lessons to children whose parents couldn't afford it," he said.

He spoke with his bosses at the Y -- Darren Goroski, senior program director, and Anna Turvin, aquatics coordinator. That's when he learned that there had been such a program several years ago.

David Poythress, Safe Kids director through the Partnership for Children of Wayne County, recalled how the program came about.

"Back in 2006, Darren and I started talking about doing swimming lessons. ... He said if we would set everything up, they would do the swimming lessons," he said. "In 2007, financially we couldn't do the lessons for free, so he and I came up with an agreeable price (and) charged a nominal fee to pay someone to teach."

Lacking money to keep it afloat, the program fell by the wayside.

Goroski, Josh said, hinted that if there was a volunteer, it might be started up again.

That was all Josh needed to hear.

He was most persistent, Ms. Turvin said.

"He really wanted to get involved and give some lessons," she said. "He's the one that kept asking, 'Are you talking to him, have you talked to him?' He was very adamant about trying to get this thing off the ground."

Turvin and Poythress worked out the logistics, securing Mina Weil Park as a site for the two-week program that begins Monday.

As quickly as it was announced, the slots were filled, Poythress said.

"We turned away there's no telling how many kids," he said.

They were only able to accept 18, despite offering two classes each for 3-5-year-olds and 6-9-year-olds.

"I would like to do this on a cycle, where we could do two weeks, take a week break, then go two weeks more," Poythress said.

That remains to be seen, but if Josh has a say, it could be possible.

"Maybe we can get this to be a yearly thing," he said. "Maybe next summer I could do it longer than two weeks, get more kids."

Currently working with children from ages 3 to 12, Josh teaches group lessons as well as private ones at the YMCA. He said he is looking forward to being able to help those who might not have been able to afford lessons.

"I think it's a very important ability to learn how to swim, and to be able to help these kids who otherwise would not be able to have that instruction," he said.

Poythress has spoken with a number of parents and children, and realizes how much the free lessons have meant.

"In the past, a lot of them just could not afford to pay for swim lessons," he said. "They were so excited that the classes were offered.

"I'm hoping in talking with these parents that they'll spread the word about Safe Kids and the YMCA working together to give lessons and hopefully this will continue."

Josh hopes so, too, even if he doesn't get paid for his services.

"Last summer it was a requirement. Working with the kids I really enjoyed it," said the aspiring pediatrician. "All I know is, he's got kids for me to work with. I'm looking forward to being able to work with them. I think it will be very rewarding."

It might be surprising to see a young person asking an employer for such an opportunity, but Josh is unique, said Ms. Turvin, who worked with him as a lifeguard last summer.

"He's a very good instructor, lifeguard and person as a whole," she said. "He strives to do his best in everything he takes on himself to do. ... His goals are great and he sets them very high and does everything he can to accomplish them."