Enterprise staff writer
Hannah Levien spends much of her life in the water.
The Davis High School junior is not only a lifeguard, but also swims and plays water polo for both the high school and club teams.
So itÕs no surprise when it came time to pick a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award, Levien turned to the pool, organizing a one-day swim safety day for beginning swimmers during spring break.
The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve, and it requires much dedication and planning in the name of community service.
Levien started planning last fall, raising funds, securing a location for the event Ñ as well as instructors Ñ and developing a program aimed at children ages 4-10 with little or no swimming experience.
It was LevienÕs work as a city of Davis lifeguard last summer that led her to believe such a program was needed.
ÒAs a first-year lifeguard,Ó she said, Òit was really surprising to me how many kids I would see at the community pools who couldnÕt really swim. I like to swim so much, and I feel especially bad for those kids who canÕt afford swim lessons where they can learn basic skills and strokes.Ó
She decided to focus on those kids in particular.
ÒI wanted to target low-income families,Ó Levien said.
She did so through a family friend who works with Davis Community Meals and was able to put her in touch with families that might be interested. The class was then opened up to the community in general and quickly filled up. Twenty children ended up participating in the event.
Securing a venue for the class proved easy once her mom, Lisa Fischer, suggested she contact SwimAmerica Director Rose Cholewinski, who oversees the swim program now housed in its own building on Second Street.
Ò(Rose) was all for it,Ó Levien said. ÒShe ended up giving me the facility for free for the event. That was huge. ThatÕs when I realized the event could really happen.Ó
Next up she had to approach the Girl Scout Council to get approval for the Gold Award project. She got the go-ahead at the end of March.
She raised a little over $500 for the event by hosting a benefit holiday party in December, inviting friends, family, her parentsÕ friends and more. All donated to the cause; enough, in fact, that she had funds left over to donate to Girl Scouts and SwimAmerica Ñ including, perhaps, a scholarship fund for swim lessons.
The event itself went through many revisions as she figured out what to do, frequently consulting with her parents, Cholewinski and her troop adviser, Julie Rooney.
ÒI had an outline of what I wanted kids to come away with,Ó she said. ÒI wanted this to be one day that they might remember when theyÕre older.Ó
A day, she added, that just might save their lives in an emergency.
Important skills she decided on were floating, breathing, kicking and some strokes.
Cholewinski suggested a land-based lesson first, focusing on why learning these skills is important; then actual lessons in the pool, with children divided up based on skill level and taught by SwimAmerica staff.
The whole day went off without a hitch. Children learned swim safety and enjoyed a pizza lunch and an awards ceremony as well.
Next, Levien will have to write a report for the Girl Scout Council and, if all goes according to plan, sheÕll receive her Gold Award in 2011.
It was a lengthy but rewarding project, she said, requiring well over 50 hours of planning in all.
ÒIt was definitely a long process,Ó she said.
Now life will return to normal: school, and much more swimming and water polo, as well as a little lifeguarding this summer.
Ñ Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at (530) 747-8051 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com