Student project improves pool safety

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Jonathan Francisco organized a water safety course, through the Family Y, for public housing residents for his Eagle Scout project.   Special
Special
Jonathan Francisco organized a water safety course, through the Family Y, for public housing residents for his Eagle Scout project.

Jonathan Francisco wanted his Eagle Scout project to make an impact, but he had no idea his one-day water-safety program would be used as the basis for a new program by the Augusta arm of a national organization.

“When my dad told me, I thought it was a joke,” said Francisco, a rising high school junior, who completed his Eagle project last year. “I said ‘You’re kidding me.’ I thought it was really cool.”

Safe Kids Greater Augusta, led by the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, is seeking funding to take Francisco’s project to another level.

“He did a very good job,” said Rene Hopkins, Safe Kids Greater Augusta coordinator. “What we did was put together something with the state office to polish this. It’s a great start-up.”

Francisco met with Hopkins when he was formulating ideas for his Eagle project. He was awarded his Eagle badge on May 23, 2012. He’d initially planned to create a walking path, but he couldn’t get some of the legalities worked out on the location he’d chosen. So the Greenbrier High student had to shift gears.

“She (Hopkins) asked me ‘What do you like to do?’” he said. “I like lifeguarding.”

Hopkins told him about the high incidences of drowning in the Augusta area, especially among small children between the ages of 1 and 4 and teenagers.

“We have Lake Thurmond and the river. There is a lot of liquid access including ponds and pools,” Hopkins said. “There is lots of potential for tragedy.”

Francisco’s project took about 30 children between the ages of 5 and 9, who live in one of the housing areas managed by the Augusta Housing Authority, and spent the day in and out of the water at the Tubman Family Y.

Using games and demonstrations, the workshop touched on a variety of topics such as the importance of the buddy system, floating techniques and simple swim strokes. Most of the participants didn’t know how to swim, Francisco said, and some were afraid of the water.

Hopkins said the Safe Kids program will build on what Francisco started, but will add a major component by providing life jackets to those who participate. The cost of the life jackets triggered her need for funding.

She’d like to implement community-wide water-safety programs that involve parents and children, although she said she could also see it implemented through summer camp settings where parents are not on site.

The Safe Kids’ water-safety program does not have a name yet, Hopkins said.

Francisco is working this summer at a Boy Scout camp in North Carolina, teaching outdoor and camping skills – and lifeguarding.

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