Monday, December 14, 2009

Shawn Slevin: New Yorker Of The Week

If memory serve's me correctly Shawn is, or was, a Grand Street resident and the sister of former PS 177er Elaine Katz.
The latest New Yorker of the Week is making a big splash with more than 400 kids and 47 volunteers. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
When Shawn Slevin says when she was five years old, she almost drowned. After being afraid of the water for four years, she was finally able to get back in the pool.
"There was a swimming program that started in my local community and my parents coaxed me back into the water, and I was competing within the first year," says Slevin.
After Slevin stopped competing when she was in college, she became a swim coach for teams around the city. Three years ago, she decided to start her own not-for-profit swim team called The Swim Strong Foundation.
"I really wanted an opportunity to bring the principles that I learned and developed over the years out to a broader community," says Slevin.
She instructs more than 400 students of all skill levels, and the older kids mentor the younger ones.
"I really like the way she uses the older students to help the younger students, because she really does that right from the very beginning," says parent Ellen Fee.
"Since she helped me a lot in swimming, I wanted to pay back the favor, and I love teaching," says Abby Nicolas, a former student and volunteer.
The program is run entirely by volunteers at two pools in Queens and one in Brooklyn. Twenty-seven students have full scholarships, while the other swimmers pay between $9 and $15 for an hour-long lesson. The money is used to pay for the pool time.
"We want it to be more accessible for our families who can’t afford that," says Slevin.
Last month, Slevin started a swim program in Far Rockaway, Queens. She says it's especially needed in that community after several drownings occurred over the summer.
"Drowning is the second-largest cause of death for kids, and African-American kids drown three times as more as any other demographic, and we really want to make a change to that," says Slevin.
Slevin says she wants to help others avoid the experience she had as a child.
"I would love this to be not only a national program but a global program, because drowning is an issue all over the world," she says.
So, for giving kids an opportunity to dive into the water with confidence, Shawn Slevin is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
For more information about the Swim Strong Foundation, call 1-646-269-7897 or visit

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