Pictured: Matthew O'Hara shows the other students the new swimming techniques he's learned this week. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Events include swimming lessons and field trips

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Without the summer Youth Camp for special needs children, supported by Coastal Plains MHMR and the Alice City Parks and Recreation Department, many students this year would have spent their summer sitting at home watching TV, camp organizers said.

The camp lasts from June 4 to Aug. 10, and gives students with special needs the opportunity to participate in sports, such as golf and swimming, and take trips to Corpus Christi and the Texas State Aquarium.

"We have several activities in arts and crafts, and trips planned for the students," said Pixie Edwards, a special needs instructor with Alice High School. "We're going to have guest speakers in nutrition, gardening, safety skills, and the students are participating in both indoor and outdoor sports, like golfing, bowling and swimming."

Rudy Leal, the pool manager for the City of Alice, said he has several workers and volunteers helping out these next two weeks to teach the students how to swim.

"Their instruction involves some basic water skills. The students are learning how to control their breathing while they swim, which can be tough for anyone just starting out. But these students, after a short time can actually swim," Leal said.

The lessons are being conducted this week and next at the Anderson Park Swimming pool. The students say they are taking away more than just basic water skills, they're taking away the experience of swimming with their friends, and the confidence that comes with being physically active.

"When I was little I knew how to swim, but I forgot after that," Elizabeth Trevino, 17, said. "It's good now, because I know how to swim, and I'm not afraid of the water."

Elizabeth said she enjoyed both golfing and swimming this summer, and said she was actually pretty good on the course. If not for the Youth Camp, Elizabeth said she would probably be at home bored and cleaning house.

Eighteen-year-old Kevin Silva also enjoyed getting the chance to swim during camp. He didn't have much experience in swimming pools before this week and he sported a new pair of goggles Thursday so he could maneuver around more easily underwater.

"It's been a good summer. Coming here to the pool is great. It's a lot of work, but I like swimming the most so far. I think it's a good program, and I want to keep coming back," Silva said.

Edwards said she is very excited for the students in the program, many of whom she said had never been in a swimming pool before.

"Swimming really helps to build their confidence. Some of these students have never experienced this. They would be sitting at home or watching TV if this wasn't available for them to do during the summer," Edwards said.