Growing up, Kari Acevedo’s family had a lake house in Michigan. It was important to her mother that Kari and her twin sister take swimming lessons. “My mother didn’t know how to swim, and she didn’t feel confident to be able to help if we weren’t acclimated to the water,” Acevedo continues.
Today, Acevedo is the Park District’s Aquatics Manager and is passionate about children learning how to swim. It’s not only a skill that lasts a lifetime, but it’s a skill that saves lives. According to the Center for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 in the United States. For children ages 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.
One of Highland Park’s most inviting amenities is its access to water, from the Hidden Creek AquaPark to its Lake Michigan beaches. “For kids, swimming and summer go hand in hand,” Acevedo says. “They think of going to the water park and the beach. But, if they don’t know how to swim, their participation is limited.”
The Park District offers progressive age-appropriate swim classes, from Parent & Child Water Readiness (ages 6-18 months) through Stroke Development for advanced swimmers, focusing on building endurance and preparing aspiring competitive swimmers. The classes are focused on building swimming skills such as breathing techniques, arm placement, kicking, and foot placement.
Weekly classes are held at the Recreation Center of Highland Park (1207 Park Ave. W) and run from April through May 18. Private lessons are also available. The lessons encourage parental participation to help reinforce skills and swimming techniques. Parents or guardians can join students in a weekend open swim.
There are other benefits to learning how to swim. In the first place, Acevedo states, it’s fun. According to the CDC, swimming is America’s fourth most popular recreational sport, after walking, running, and cycling. Just over a third of the population over the age of 16–about 91 million—swim in oceans, lakes, and rivers annually.
“It’s never too late to learn how to swim,” Acevedo states. Swimming is regarded as one of the best forms of exercise. It uses muscles in the arms, legs, shoulders, buttocks, and other body areas. It also has cardiovascular benefits. A low-impact sport, swimming is an ideal recuperative exercise for athletes who have been injured and senior citizens.
“As a mother,” Acevedo jokes, “I loved the days my kids took swim lessons. It increased their energy level and helped them sleep at night. They got a good workout, but they didn’t think of it as a workout because they were having too much fun.”
Scholarships for swim lessons are available for families in need through SMILE (Highland Park residents) and Foundation Youth Initiative or FYI (Highwood residents). Learn more about Park District swim lessons.