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Jaliara Jackson learns to swim while being assisted by Sydney Kate Candler, a lifeguard and swimming instructor, Monday morning at the Thomson Family Y. A group of children will spend two weeks learning to swim.

Thirty children from Warrenton are learning to swim, this week and next, after Project Exposure Inc. reached out to the Thomson Family Y.

“We started Project Exposure at the end of 2018. It’s basically to expose the underprivileged youth to different aspects of the world,” said Kia Evans, a 1999 Warrenton High School graduate and president of the non-profit.

Last year, Project Exposure took a group of children to Ruby Falls. The group has also made similar arrangements for children to learn water safety in Madison. The basic idea is that the group, through donations and sponsorships, helps expose children to new experiences.  

“Basically, it’s just to take the pressure off the parents and we have a good many people that want to sponsor and be involved with it,” Evans said.

Why swimming lessons?

“Because a lot of them don’t know how to swim and they want to go to the pool and do this and that, but I guess no one is thinking that they need to learn to swim,” Evans said.

Sponsors cover the costs  of the swimming classes and the Thomson Family Y is providing the location. Classes began Monday morning and now even more people are coming forward to help support the children as they learn to swim.

“We’ve now got other people donating goggles,”  Evans said. She added that some of the girls don’t have swimming caps, so people are donating those as well.

“We’ve just got to come together and make it happen,” she said.

Taylor Gallups, Thomson Family Y program director, coordinated with Evans to make the swimming lessons available.

“So, what we’re doing is  we’re offering 30 children 30 minutes of lessons (per day) for two weeks,” Gallups said.

The children are split into three groups of 10 each. The children will participate each morning, Monday to Friday, for two weeks.

“We did it for two weeks to insure we could get them to swim,” he said.

The youngest age group is for children 5 to 8. The oldest group has teenagers.

“Swimming is an essential skill in that we want to make sure that everyone has the chance to come in and try to learn,” Gallups said.

Sydney Kate Candler, the Thomson Family Y’s head lifeguard, is leading the classes and teaching the children to swim.

“We’re just excited to get them in the pool and give them a chance to learn,” Gallups said.

He said COVID-19 cannot live in chlorinated water and the Thomson Family Y pool is open seven days a week, like normal for this time of year.

The Thomson Family Y also has it’s regular swimming lessons, which Gallups said can be for a wide range of ages — from 3 months old to senior citizens.

Evans is just a part of a group of people who grew up and went to school in Warrenton and now give back to the children of the community. She said of the Project Exposure board of directors only one or two live in Warrenton still. Most have moved away, yet still care deeply for their hometown. But that focus on Warrenton children has expanded and now reaches further into surrounding communities.

“It was formed in Warrenton, but is now more like the CSRA. We didn’t put a limit on it. It’s anybody,” she said.

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