Friday, August 12, 2011
During the summer months, many children stay inside on their technical gadgets or become a fan of someone’s facebook page. This summer, 27 students from Colleton County engaged in a more active, more conducive form of learning. They learned swimming techniques through SC State’s Aquatics Program that could possibly save their lives
According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2010, drowning for minority populations is notably higher in certain age groups. African-American children between the ages of five and 14 are drowning at an alarming rate of 3.1 times higher than that of Caucasian children in the same age range. With a yearning desire to make a difference in a child’s life this summer, and to eradicate the dim statistics, Corporal Jimmy Wiggins, a school resource officer from the Colleton County Sherriff’s Office, felt that there was a need for the students to engage in a new experience-swimming. Wiggins reached out to Dr. Crystal Nixon who serves as the director of the aquatics program at SC State University. Wiggins wanted to build a connection from Colleton County to Orangeburg County. “I reached out to Dr. Nixon to see what the rates would be to teach the children of Colleton County how to swim. She was so excited to have us to attend the aquatics program this summer,” says Wiggins.
Nixon concurred with Wiggins, stating that they wanted to do anything that they possibly could to assist the children of Colleton County. “We felt as if this would be a perfect opportunity to assist the community. We would like for all children to learn how to swim. Teaching life saving skills is definitely something that you cannot put a price tag on,” adds Nixon.
Wiggins and Nixon managed to develop a budget to assist with the children’s summer swimming camp experience. “She assisted us with discounted rates per child and even took the initiative to call persons in Colleton County for sponsorships. It was an excellent opportunity for a two-week program; she was very helpful in the process,” says Wiggins. Colleton County and parents also supported the venture. “I asked the superintendant of Colleton County if he would let us bring in a county bus to drive to the summer camp and he immediately said yes. He ensured that I had to have my commercial driving license (CDL) and everything worked out from that point.” Wiggins also stated that the parents were relaxed and eager to put their children in the summer camp. “Once I shared the history of SC State’s Aquatics Program and ensured that there were certified lifeguards on board, they were eager to get their children involved in the summer camp,” says Wiggins.
Wiggins, who worked at SC State University in 2000, was very familiar with the aquatics program and knew that this would be a wonderful incentive to encourage students and present them with an opportunity that they could not receive in the Walterboro community. “During the summer, most of the students watch movies. They play basketball and play video games all day; we wanted to give them something new,” said Wiggins.
SC State’s Aquatics Program taught the students simple life-saving skills. Since the beginning of the summer camp, the children began to pick up on some of the most important techniques that could help save their lives. “The aquatics program is a structured system. They learn eye contact, listening skills, behavioral skills, social skills and cognitive skills while being physically fit in this program,” said Nixon. “When students come here they have swimming lessons.” Nixon is a lifeguard certifier for the American Red Cross.
Breana Mitchell, a rising seventh grade student at Colleton County Middle School, was excited about the program. She felt as though she learned various skills that could save her life. “I think that this aquatics program was a great way for children to do different things and an escape from the house and a way of having fun. We learned that you have to have someone with you when you arrive at a pool. They must be a person that can swim and they must know CPR.” She also added that it is not a good idea to dive in the water because someone may panic and that is not safe.
Nixon, who has served as the aquatics director for four years, stated that SC State’s Aquatics Program guarantees results. “Within six weeks, your child will be kicking comfortably and flutter kicking; they will place their heads in the water and they will learn the beginning steps of breathing, and we express the importance of safety around the water,” said Nixon. “This is a very important skill that we need them to understand. We enhance their cognitive and social skills in so many ways.”
Since attending SC State’s Aquatics Program, Mitchell has gained an extreme confidence for swimming and she feels as if it was the perfect opportunity for her. “We learned various techniques, such as learning how to glide and push off from the side of the swimming pool, and we also learned how to surf the boards while we were swimming, which means that the surf board guided us. I would definitely tell my peers that they should support the program next year and it is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn something new.”
Recently, the SC State Aquatics Program was awarded a $500,000 grant from Orangeburg County to renovate the aquatics facility. SC State University also collaborated with Orangeburg Aquatic Park for training lifeguards for the park.
For additional information about SC State’s Aquatics Program, contact Dr. Crystal Nixon at (803)536-7054.