At Silver Lake Pool, about a dozen Boys & Girls Club members ages 7-9 were full of energy.

Astrid Jones dunked her head under water, and came up cracking a smile. Marquez Neal showed off his new backstroke, exclaiming to his friends to make sure they saw it.

They were participating in free swim lessons offered by Let Them Swim, a group composed of the Rochester Swim Club, Rochester Swimming Inc., and community members. Their goal is to keep the Silver Lake Pool open and to remove barriers to access and participation.

“The kids need to know how to swim,” said Rochester Swim Club CEO Autumn Kappes. “They may not go swimming often, but they may find themselves 5 or 10 years from now in a situation where they need to know how to swim. And it may not be in a pool. It may be on a boat, it may be out on a lake — it may be anywhere.”

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These classes, which started Tuesday, are part of that mission.

In addition to the instruction, participants receive free swimsuits and goggles.

Juliann Yao, a volunteer from the Mayo High School swim team, high fives Astrid Jones, a Boys and Girls Club member, during a swimming lesson Thursday, July 8, 2021, at the Silver Lake pool in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Juliann Yao, a volunteer from the Mayo High School swim team, high fives Astrid Jones, a Boys and Girls Club member, during a swimming lesson Thursday, July 8, 2021, at the Silver Lake pool in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

“We always felt like that was a barrier to get those kids to come here,” Kappes said. “We’re hoping families come that normally would not have come. If they don’t have suits for their kids, that shouldn’t be a barrier.”

All of this is funded by the Aquatics Participation and Safety Fund, started earlier this year by Let Them Swim, which has raised over $7,000. Lessons are taught by volunteers from the community.

On Thursday, that was members of the Mayo High School girls swim team. They helped the bright-eyed kids — who varied in skill — learn swimming basics and important safety lessons.

“They’re teaching them how to roll over, not just pushing off the wall. Can you swim from the center of the pool back without being able to push on something?” Kappes said. “It’s not just about competitive swimming. It’s about safety in the water.”

Beyond the Boys & Girls Club, members from Jeremiah Program and the community have also signed up for lessons. Those begin in two weeks.

Juliann Yao, a volunteer from the Mayo High School swim team, give a swimming lesson to Astrid Jones, a Boys and Girls Club member, Thursday, July 8, 2021, at the Silver Lake pool in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Juliann Yao, a volunteer from the Mayo High School swim team, give a swimming lesson to Astrid Jones, a Boys and Girls Club member, Thursday, July 8, 2021, at the Silver Lake pool in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The early popularity of the pilot program is an encouraging sign for Kappes, who hopes to continue offering free lessons in future summers.

“We want these kids to continue to swim, and we’ve talked with the Boys & Girls Club about how we can continue this program throughout the year,” she said.