In 2011 The Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club announced their partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America , Michael Phelps Foundation and KidsHealth.org to present the “im” Program. Over the last two years, this program has allowed children in the local community to receive free, quality swim lessons at the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club.
Beginning last year, the Milford School District and the Milford Boys & Girls Club introduced the “im” Program to the Vocational Instructional Program (VIP) at Milford Middle School and the Milford Central Academy. These students, which all posses cognitive deficits of varying levels, were introduced to the pool not only to teach them the skill of swimming but also to teach them about healthy lifestyles and working together as a team. The success of the program with Milford School District led the Boys & Girls Club to expand the experience to include the Personalized Academics for Supported Employment (PASE) program at Woodbridge High School.
The PASE students of Woodbridge High School are currently involved with the eight week program, visiting the pool two times a week, as they are guided through the Michael Phelps Foundation im program. The im program is designed to encourage children to make decisions that lead to an active and healthy lifestyle. It offers water safety courses, recreational pool activities, swim training and health and wellness education. Although all the students involved in the PASE program have some level of cognitive deficits, they will all be taught to swim by progressing through the program the same as every child.
“It is great to see them supporting each other and cheering each other on in the pool, they are moving through the program and enjoying themselves,” commented Sarah Ziccarelli, Aquatics Director of the Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club. “They are learning water skills but also strokes like freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.” As an instructor, Ms. Ziccarelli helps build each student’s confidence and pushes them to swim to the best of their ability. Learning strokes one at a time, each individual is challenged to take the swim test which includes swimming an entire length of the pool without stopping.
Teacher at Woodbridge High School and Program Coordinator of PASE, Jed Bell, assists the kids in learning about health lifestyle choices and transports the students to the Boys & Girls Club Pool twice a week. At the high school level, the PASE students are prepared for life after school by learning life skills, job training and how to make healthy life choices. Working with the students on a daily basis, Bell comments that the students look forward to the program all week long and cannot wait to visit the pool.
“This program is great for the kids, it teaches them the living healthy aspect of their life skills curriculum that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” commented Mr. Bell. “Through the program they also get to experience success which helps with their self-esteem. Watching the camaraderie in the pool has been very exciting.”
For students of every level and ability the Michael Phelps Foundation im program aims to teach children life lessons through knowledge, understanding and sportsmanship. The Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club will continue to expand its reach into the community through the im program by offering the scholarship through community partners such as the Milford and Woodbridge School Districts. More information about the im program and the Great Milford Boys & Girls Club can be found at http://www.bgclubs.org/milford.aspx or by calling 302-422-4453.