It is a small splash as six-year-old Ana Maria hits the water on a cool morning at the Hanna Boys Center Pool. But it is a huge achievement for a little girl who just a few weeks ago was terrified of the water. This summer the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance is once again teaming up with Swim America to provide affordable swim lessons and help more students in the mentoring program become water safe.
Ana Maria’s mentor, Vicki Jackson brings her to the swim lessons four mornings each week, and she has watched Ana Maria make amazing progress. The pool is set up with stations for each level of swimming ability. Even the most frightened beginner has a safe place to start out here. The very first week of her swimming classes, Ana Maria was afraid of even putting her face in the water, and she kept her eyes glued to her mentor Vickie who waited nervously on the deck. Now, Ana Maria easily reaches out to the instructor and kicks her way across the pool. By the third lesson, Ana Maria was even jumping off the pool deck into the water. Today, each time her head pops out of the water, she has a huge smile on her face. For Vickie, it is a wonderful way to enjoy some mentoring time over the summer, and also to help her mentee achieve an important life skill. “We are having a blast,” says Jackson. “And I know she will never be afraid of the water again.” Jackson had a scare herself as a young child during a family vacation to a lake, so when she heard about the Swim America program, she signed Ana Maria up right away. Ana Maria will be entering second grade this fall and she will have plenty to share with her friends about what she did over summer vacation.
The Mentoring Alliance has an Empowerment Program Fund which helps pay the cost of special classes and programs such as summer swim lessons. This program is funded by private donations. “Empowerment activities can really open up new doors for a student,” according to Mentoring Alliance Program Director Tina Baldry. “Mentees find a new source of confidence when they succeed in something outside of school, and often we see their grades and attitudes improve because of that confidence.”
Students receive support for a variety of empowerment activities including leadership training, martial arts, art camps, music lessons, dance classes and more. Studies show that students with the opportunity to take part in healthy and fun activities outside of school are far more likely to stay out of trouble and engage in school.
Find out more about how mentoring helps students succeed by visiting the Stand by Me Mentoring Alliance website at Sonoma mentoring.org. Training for new mentors begins in September. Call 938.1990 for details.
Laura Zimmerman is the development director for the Stand By Me Mentoring Alliance, which matches adult mentors with local students for both academic and social support. The Mentoring Alliance currently serves more than 450 children. For more information visit: www.sonomamentoring.org.