Rowland Academy’s Summer Enrichment Academy discovered a week before the program started that the pool it usually attends would not be able to accommodate its children this year.
The Harrisburg-based program typically takes 50 middle school-aged children swimming once a week during the summer.
That is, until the group discovered Second Lady Gisele Fetterman’s new public swim program, which allows local organizations to apply to swim free-of-charge at the lieutenant governor’s state-owned pool, located at Fort Indiantown Gap.
The Rowland kids (and their nine chaperones) claimed dibs.
“We had this incredible amenity just sitting here unused,” Fetterman, the wife of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, said. “So, we put out a call for groups that are either nonprofits, organizations or schools that otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to have their kids swim.”
So far, more than a dozen groups have responded, and six others are currently on the pool’s calendar, according to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.
The Rowland program focuses on water safety, with lifeguards on site teaching the children different swimming skills during swimming tests.
“If we look at statistics in regard to drowning, it overwhelmingly affects children of color, and we want to be able to work to change those statistics,” Fetterman said.
Most of the children enrolled in the program are students of color. Eleven-year-old Baryea said that she hopes that the program will help her strengthen her swimming skills.
“I’m having an amazing time here today,” she said. “I’m hoping to do the swimming test so I can go in the deep end, but for right now, I’m going to stay in the shallow end.”
Darnell Montgomery, a dean of students at Rowland Academy and the site director for the Summer Enrichment Academy, said that the swim program is a great opportunity for the children.
“The lieutenant governor and his wife opening up the pool is wonderful,” Montgomery said. “First, it’s an opportunity for our kids to get out of the city, but it’s also an opportunity for them to swim privately and not be worried about other groups, which gives us a lot of opportunity for them.”
The Rowland Summer Enrichment Academy serves students in 5th through 8th grade, with academic enrichment programs in the mornings and activities such as arts and crafts, swimming and field trips.
Fetterman said that she hopes to continue her long-time work in advocacy and equity through the public swim program.
“I want to continue to improve access and work on equity,” Fetterman said. “Equity applies to everything, and it applies to this pool, too.”
For more information or to apply, email Gisele Fetterman at Gisele@forgoodpgh.org.