“I think it’s really important that kids of minority families do have the opportunity to learn how to swim," Harvey said. "It’s one of those thing that can kind of separate people."
During the swim lessons, volunteers teach the children different strokes and play games. Dive In: Chapel Hill also provides children with goggles, and Bowman Gray Memorial Pool lends their kickboards and pool toys.
Before every swim lesson, Lucy Thames and Catie Sappenfield, the two community resource coordinators for Dive In: Chapel Hill, send out an email early in the week previewing the theme of their next English tutoring session. Then, parents can identify what tutoring sessions will best help their English-speaking skills and choose which sessions to attend.
The sessions focus on basic language skills for parents to use in everyday work and social environments.
“You don’t consider the amount of agency that goes into being able to say, ‘I can’t go to work today,’” Thames said.
Thames, a senior health policy and management and Spanish major, said lesson themes range from vocabulary centered around navigating public transportation to communicating effectively during parent-teacher conferences. Thames and Sappenfield also send out surveys throughout the semester to gauge what areas parents want to work on most.
With about 40 student volunteers, Dive In: Chapel Hill serves around 70 children each semester. One of those volunteers, Caroline Yencha, a first-year biology and Spanish major, decided to join after hearing about the organization at Fall Fest.
Yencha said her favorite part of volunteering has been bonding with children through one-on-one lessons. She also said the inability to swim is much more common than one might think.
“I know a lot of people my age that don’t know how to swim," Yencha said. "They like to go in the pool, but if they were in the deep end, they could possibly drown because they don't know how to stay afloat."
Yencha started swimming in fourth grade and continued competitively through high school, but Hawks said students do not need competitive swimming experience to volunteer, just the ability to swim and an interest in working with children.
Volunteers must also attend a training session at the beginning of each semester. Throughout the semester, volunteers track swimmers’ progress to insure each child is continuously improving and learning new skills each week.
Looking to the future, Hawks said recruiting more volunteers is an important goal for Dive In: Chapel Hill.
“This year, we've had the most consistent volunteers that we’ve ever had, which is super exciting,” Hawks said. “And so, we want to be able to continue sustaining that growth, as well incorporating more families into our program, since now that we kind of have the capacity since there’s operations both at UNC as well at Duke, we can even allow more families to come on a regular basis.”