Each Christmas since she was three, the 14-year-old Summerside girl gets a cheque in the mail from her grandparents, money used for regular swimming lessons.
The gift helped instill in Kennedy a love of swimming she can use and teach others for the rest of her life.
For a year, the Grade 9 Athena Consolidated student has been teaching swimming lessons at Credit Union Place, starting with children as young as three.
“For me, teaching kids and being with these kids is very important. I am also doing something I love, which makes it a lot of fun,” said Kennedy. “I really love it. I love doing it. It’s a lot of fun.”
After spending several years learning how to swim, the teen decided she wanted to help others feel comfortable in the water.
She vividly remembers teaching her first class.
“I was scared, petrified. I didn’t want to mess up,” said Kennedy. “I got a lot of help from the other instructors and lifeguards. They are all so friendly here. That was really nice. I also learned how to teach very quickly.”
Kennedy’s mom, Michelle Askew, said her mother, who was terrified of the water, wanted to ensure that her children could swim. They took lessons and weren’t allowed to quit until they received their bronze-level certification.
Michelle wanted to give her daughter that same gift and life skill.
“We invest in our daughter in terms of her future. The things she does she has to love,” said the mother. “Swimming became a non-option. If you have your lifeguard (training) you have a lovely clean job that puts you with really great kids, really great families and great colleagues. You will have those options in the future.”
Kennedy has her sights set on completing first-aid training, completing her bronze-level certification and taking her junior lifeguard training.
She’s taught children who were terrified of the water not to be afraid, one of the most gratifying moments for her as an instructor.
“When you get them into the water it’s amazing. You just have to be patient,” said Kennedy. “Most of the time kids do love water. You just have to take your time. When they finally get it, they love it. It just makes your day.”
Red Cross Learn to Swim sessions at Credit Union Place pool start Jan. 3 with weekday classes Thursdays. Weekend classes starting Jan. 19.
Pool manager, Barb McNeill, said the schedule has been revamped.
“We’re hoping to get the word out so that maybe busy families can think about attending once a week versus twice a week and come in and start classes.”
McNeill said the return on investment is immeasurable, with those who learn to swim having a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
It was more than 40 years ago that she first got the gift of swimming lessons from her parents. Since, McNeill has taught thousands how to swim.
“I’ve introduced all my brothers’ children to lessons. They can all swim. That means a lot,” she added. “I’ve made my family safe, too, in a way that I enjoy.
One-on-one lessons are also available for any age, from toddlers to seniors.
“You are never ever too old to learn,” said McNeill.
Michelle added, “The day that you float by yourself for the first time and feel all the weight gone, all the tension, all those things that make your muscles hurt and all that stress… that is the best feeling in the whole world.”
A FEW FACTS
- Weekday lessons begin Jan. 3; weekend lessons Jan. 19
- Second session offered in April
- Classes are held once a week for eight weeks on Saturday or Sunday mornings or Thursday after school.
- Those who sign up for January and April sessions get a 20 per cent discount
- For information, contact Barb McNeill at 432-1280.
- To register for lessons, visit the front desk at Credit Union Place or call the front desk at 432-1234 ext. 0