I didn’t learn how to swim until I was ten years old. Even then, I didn’t learn from formal lessons or classes. One of my older brothers taught me the doggy paddle and that was good enough in case I was forced to swim, but I avoided the water. I was self conscious about my inability to swim, and I often avoided pool parties or visits to the beach. To this day, I am not a strong swimmer, and I still shy away from water related activities.
My husband, on the other hand, loves the water, and he is a great swimmer. We own a boat, and when he can talk me into going out, I always feel anxious about being in open water. Because of my own experiences, I have decided to teach my son to swim at an early age. At nine months old, I have signed him up for his first swim class. Not only will it give him the skills to swim and the confidence to enjoy the water, it may save his life.
It is important that children learn to swim early on, and with summer in full bloom, water safety is on a lot of our minds as parents. The site 1 in One Hundred Million is shining the light on a very special woman that is teaching children swimming skills that may just save their lives. Dedicated to honoring the every day heroes in our communities, 1 in One Hundred Million showcases the men and women that perform some of the toughest jobs but get the least amount of recognition. For the month of June, they are sharing the story of Justina Pratt.
At 18 months old, Justina fell into a pool. Luckily, her Grandfather was able to jump in and save her but for many children, this kind of accident is deadly. When Justina had her own children, she wanted them to learn to swim right away. She enrolled her children in the YMCA where they began the Safe Start Program.
The Safe Start Program is a highly specialized class that teaches children from 6 months to 6 years how to swim and stay safe in the water. For infants 6 months to 12 months, they teach them water survival. This means when the child goes into the water, they immediately roll onto their back and float until someone can rescue them. This is life saving. An accident can happen in the blink of an eye, but with this kind of training, even infants will be able to keep themselves safe.
Justina loved the program so much she told every parent she knew about them. Eventually, her husband encouraged her to become a trainer, and Justina jumped at the chance. She graduated from a rigorous 8 week training course through Infant Swimming Resource which included education on medical information, as well as the psychological and behavioral tools needed to interact with children and families. Today, she spends 5-6 hours in the pool every day, and she has trained over 250 kids. She teaches at the YMCA of Central Florida where there are 17 instructors and 24 pools. In Florida, the drowning rate of children under five are more than double the national average and higher than any other state in the nation. This is an incredible program that is saving the lives of children and teaching the importance of water safety.
This incredible passion and dedication to such a wonderful cause has even saved her own son. In 2013, her three year old son fell off of a dock while fishing. Before Justina could react, her son immediately rolled onto his back and began to float. To see such a natural reaction in such a dangerous situation has only deepened Justina’s dedication. Through her time teaching she has received countless letters of gratitude from parents and children.
Justina’s story is one of inspiration and hope…And one that should be shared. It is these every day heroes that save lives and make this world a better place.
Visit 1 in One Hundred Million to see Justina’s story and more stories like hers that deserved to be recognized.
To find out more about the Safe Start Program check out:
This post is written on behalf of Kronos through Find Your Influence by me. All opinions are 100% mine.