Convenience prompted Beachwood resident Melanie Kriwinski to enroll her children in the Mandel JCC’s learn-to-swim program. A sense of community compelled her family to stay.
“The instructors and staff are part of a larger community,” Melanie said. “That’s why we go to The J. My kids look at the instructors with respect. If we run into instructors out in the community, they will stop and interact with my children. If I’m working out next to (Aquatics Manager) Lyle Reed in the fitness center, he always talks to me. You get the sense that everyone is part of this community.”
Melanie, a nine-year member, has been bringing her children to The J’s American Red Cross-certified swimming lessons for more than four years. When her youngest child was a toddler, she appreciated that staff at the J’s Kid Kare babysitting area kept him safe, occupied and happy so she could supervise the older children’s swimming lessons. Today, eight-year-old Elijah, six-year-old Kate and three-year-old Ethan take swimming lessons on Monday afternoons and will continue the program until they graduate from the highest level, their mother says.
“My kids have gained a lot from the program,” Melanie said. “They get to work with other kids, so they’re learning teamwork, socialization and leadership. My older son will encourage his little brother. That’s partly because the instructors encourage the children to give each other positive feedback.”
The J’s swim program begins with parent-child instruction and continues up to Red Cross’s level six. Once swimmers graduate from level six, they are eligible for swim team preparation, junior lifeguarding, lifeguarding and water safety instructor programs. The J is one of the few pools in the area that exclusively uses water safety instructors during lessons. A minimum of one instructor for every four students is strictly adhered to, but the ratio is often exceeded. It is not uncommon to see a class of five or six students with two water safety instructors.
“Most programs only offer lessons on Saturday mornings or afterschool, but we offer swimming lessons at every level seven days a week,” Lyle said. “A lot of the kids start as toddlers and work their way up to being lifeguards and water safety instructors. We know all of the kids by name and a lot of them get to keep the same instructors throughout the program. There’s definitely a sense of community."