top of page

YMCA receives Harvest Youth Board grant

May 20, 2016

The Martinsville-Henry County YMCA received a $2,500 grant from the Harvest Youth Board to help fund swimming lessons for approximately 750 first grade students in the area.

First grade students in the Martinsville and Henry County area will receive one week (five days) of daily swim lessons by trained instructors at the YMCA during the 2016-2017 school year as part of the First Grade Learn to Swim (FGLS) program, a program of the YMCA and Martinsville Area Community Foundation (MACF).

Participants also will receive a free t-shirt and swimming goggles as part of the Harvest Youth Board grant.

“We are very excited to be able to support the First Grade Learn to Swim program,” said Paulina Vazquez, chairperson of the Harvest Youth Board. “The Youth Board is dedicated to creating opportunities for this area’s youth, and learning to swim at a young age is a critical skill that will greatly benefit the youth.”

Harvest Youth Board Member Kristel Hairston said this program “gives the youth of our community a new opportunity and experience. This is what the Harvest Youth Board stands for. It is very important, especially for younger children, to learn basic skills of swimming. We are excited to see the potential of this program fulfilled.”

According to the grant application, the goal of FGLS is to create lifelong participants in aquatic activities for their health and enjoyment. First grade students will develop their swimming and water safety skills with an experience outside of the classroom while connecting real life experiences to educational goals and lifelong wellness opportunities.

“The YMCA believes that all youth should have the opportunity to learn basic water safety and swimming,” said Brad Kinkema, CEO and executive director of the YMCA. “This is why we committed resources to try to reach every first grader in the city and county.  Without help from funders like the Harvest Youth Board, the Y simply could not offer this program.  It takes collaboration to make this happen.”

Students are bussed from their schools to the YMCA during the school day to participate in the lesson at no cost to their family. They will spend approximately 45 minutes in the water each day working on daily goals such as:

  • learning basic pool and water safety rules;

  • flutter kicks;

  • proper arm movements;

  • front crawl;

  • and treading water.

FGLS provides health-enhancing aquatic experiences for first-grade students while improving students’ safety knowledge, water skills, increase their level of physical activity and ultimately prevent unintentional drownings, according to Kinkema.

“Swimming is a lifelong skill that many take for granted unless you do not know how to swim,” Kinkema said. “Not knowing how to swim precludes individuals from a variety of activities. The Y believes in reaching out to everyone despite social economic barriers to teach water safety and swimming.”

To sustain the FGLS program, the YMCA and MACF will look to engage other funders and businesses who may be interested in branding the program.

“The Foundation is so appreciative to the Harvest Foundation Youth Board for choosing to make a grant to the ‘Learn to Swim’ program,” said April Haynes, director of MACF. “What started as a pilot program in early 2014 has now grown into serving over 500 first graders each year. The partnerships formed with this program are invaluable. We are thankful for all those involved because the children are learning something they can carry with them throughout their lives.”

The Harvest Youth Board is supported by the Harvest Foundation and the Kiwanis Club. To find out more about FGLS, visit or call (276) 647-3771.

The Harvest Youth Board was created in June 2015 to develop projects and initiatives important to young people in Martinsville and Henry County, and to advise the Harvest Foundation Board of Directors on issues relating to youth.

bottom of page