Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Rachel Leider Web Editor
Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, senior Chris Lueck heads over to the natatorium to take a break from studying and school work, but unlike his other visits to the pool, he isn’t on his way to swim practice, he is going to teach swim and water safety lessons to Kalamazoo youth. Three days a week kids from the Kalamazoo community outnumber the Kalamazoo College swimmers in the pool to attend Swim for Success one of K’s many service learning programs that flies under the radar.
Originally the pool was used for a club swim team to practice in with the help of K college swimmers. “When they [the club swim team] disbanded in January of 2012, I knew that it was a wonderful program for the community and for our students so I organized a meeting to talk about how we could keep it going. From there, it took off with K students really taking charge to organize the program last spring without any funding while we worked with the city to secure a donor,” said Swim and Dive Coach Kathleen Milliken
With the perseverance of Milliken, the involvement of the city, and members of the swim team like Lueck who are dedicated to the program, mere swim practice has developed into something much more. Offering swim and water safety lessons along with optional tutoring during Swim for Success the K volunteers act as mentors showing kids the importance of health, safety and education.
By learning the basics of swimming the kids are able to build there self esteem which also becomes apparent in their academic achievements. “My favorite part of Swim for Success is seeing drastic improvements in kids’ swimming abilities and performances in the classroom. Swim for Success helps kids build up their confidence and many start to take their learning into their own hands,” said Nicholas Smith, K’13. With the recent donation being the largest ever, more focus can be put on the tutoring portion of the program, providing attendance incentives and snacks.
“It’s also just basic safety stuff. In Michigan there’s lakes everywhere. You know you can almost go in any direction and find water,” said Lueck, who is now the current Civic Engagement Scholar for the program.
Both Lueck and Smith agree that they too, as volunteers really benefit from engaging with the diverse Kalamazoo community. The relationships formed between the K students and the Kalamazoo youth of all different backgrounds allows for a truly reciprocal learning environment. “Swim for Success brings the greater Kalamazoo community closer together,” said Smith.