Pensacola, FL (April 24, 2023) Swimming and sailing lessons for foster teens are possible thanks to a partnership between the YMCA of Northwest Florida and the Pensacola Yacht Club Satori Foundation.
Lakeview Center staff at Arcadia Place and Cabot Heights serve foster teens. Many have experienced abuse or neglect and struggle with mental health issues. A grant from the Satori Foundation is funding the swim lessons at the Y for the young group home residents.
“This is an opportunity that these teens wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Allison Hill, president and CEO, LifeView Group.
Swimming and sailing lessons are a way to explore
“We want to give these young people a snapshot of what life could hold,” said Donza Stanley, the behavioral health manager at Arcadia. Learning to swim earns the teens an opportunity to participate in a weeklong sailing camp with Satori. Beyond that, the Y is incentivizing their participation by offering lifeguard training and a pathway to employment on the Y’s aquatics team.
This first class is being led by veteran YMCA swim instructor Donna Steffensmeier. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know these wonderful teenagers. I’ve seen them build their endurance in the water,” she said. “This program can help them develop useful skills and provide an opportunity to learn the prerequisites for what will hopefully progress to lifeguarding class.”
According to Alan McMillan, president of the Satori Foundation, the group has taken about 1,000 youth out on the water since its inception in 2015. They have used sailing as a way to explore STEM, marine biology and more. But first, teens must be able to swim. “Kids wanted to sail, but they couldn’t swim,” he explained. “We started seeing swimming as a core part of our mission. We look forward to working together with the Y for years to come.”
Group homes support teens in trauma
At Arcadia Place and Cabot Heights, specialized caregivers work to support the teens’ recovery, health and well-being, preparing them for living in a family setting or in an independent environment. Some teens stay in the homes longer than two years before aging out of the foster care system. The partners hope providing swimming and sailing lessons for foster teens will build on their self-esteem and impart important safety information for living in a region with many water-based activities. In addition to lessons, swimsuits also will be provided to teens who can’t afford them. “When we’re looking at partnerships, we want to be a convener,” said Michael Bodenhausen, YMCA CEO. “It takes multiple organizations working together to make the community better.”