Tag Archives: Swim Strong Foundation

Op-ed: The importance of having strong swimming skills

| oped@queenscourier.com


As we knock on summer’s door, I am reflecting on the overwhelming number of people I speak to on a daily basis who STILL don’t know how to swim! The American Red Cross conducted a recent survey and discovered that nearly half of American adults cannot swim. Their definition for the purpose of the survey: “Adults should be able to float or tread water for about a minute, then be able to turn yourself so you can orient to a position of safety. Then you swim at least 25 yards and then get out of the water,” said Connie Harvey, a water safety expert of the American Red Cross.

Why is this the case? It’s true — the statistics are scary. In the U.S. on average, every day, 10 people die due to drowning. Drowning is the second largest cause of death for children ages 14 and younger, with kids of color drowning three times more than their Caucasian peers. Amazingly, it is the leading cause of death for children 5 and younger, with many of those tragedies happening around the home! And on a global scale, drowning is the second largest cause of death, period.

On the flip side, swimming is one of the most beneficial activities you can do ALL of your life! It is the best cardio/pulmonary and skeletal friendly exercise bar none. It’s a total body workout, working every muscle group, but with low impact. Embracing swimming as part of your exercise regime will help you avoid chronic health issues like obesity, heart problems and diabetes. From a cosmetic point of view, swimmers rarely look anywhere near their actual ages. It is the true fountain of youth.

The benefits of taking the skill to a competitive level certainly transcend the pool. Swimming is a sport that challenges the individual, for the benefit of the team. As a member of a community-based swim team advancing through participating as an elite swimmer on a national team, you will learn self-discipline, goal-setting, commitment, teamwork, perseverance, resiliency, and organizational and leadership skills. I often speak with educators from the primary school level through postgraduate levels who reflect that competitive swimmers do very well academically. Why? Because it takes a laser-like focus, self-discipline and the organizational skills needed to multitask so that you can successfully manage your time to swim multiple workouts during the day while going to school, doing homework and, in some cases, also going to work. Naturally, these skills will benefit individuals from their academic lives into their careers, family lives and into the community as well.

Strong swimming skills enhance your life in many ways. Once you have them, you can explore 32 other water-based sports. In some cases (water polo, competitive swimming and diving, rowing) there are college scholarships available. In other cases, like surfing … not so much! However, each sport is both physically and mentally challenging and you will meet people with similar interests and expand your social circle in a great way.

There are also career opportunities available in the aquatics industry and the military, hospitality, sports and entertainment fields that utilize these skills.

So, why are you waiting? For safety, health and recreation, there is nothing like it. The younger you start, the better, but it’s never too late to learn to swim.

Water Safety + Swimming Skills = LIFE Skills

Shawn Slevin is the founder of Swim Strong Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, saving and changing lives through swimming in NYC.



Marshall gives final State of the Borough address

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy — honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm.

“Let’s reflect together now,” she said on Tuesday, January 22, “on the devastation Sandy caused. The relief, from across the street and across the country, and the rebuilding, now underway, inspired by hope and the promise of tomorrow.”

Marshall honored the memory of Dylan Smith — the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico last month — for his heroic efforts to help neighbors during the storm. With Smith’s parents in attendance, Marshall announced her office would give a $10,000 grant to the Swim Strong Foundation, which teaches a healthy lifestyle through swimming, in Smith’s memory.

Swim Strong founder Shawn Slevin said the grant in Smith’s name would continue to help the program, which has taught more than 2,000 people water safety and granted nearly 700 scholarships.

“This will mean so much for our scholarship funds,” Slevin said. “The borough president and her staff have always been very supportive of us.”

Michael McDonald, who helped rescue Belle Harbor residents alongside Smith, recalled the late surfer was modest to the attention he received after the storm. Before the audience at Queens College’s Colden Theater, McDonald gave a heartfelt recollection of the late October night and referred to Smith as “a guardian angel in a wetsuit.”

“The idea that his name will be mentioned in what he loved to do, which was not only swim and surf, but look out for the safety of others [is wonderful],” he said.

Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. Marshall applauded the anti-gun work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and announced she plans to sponsor a gun buy back program sometime this spring.

“While Thanksgiving was muted by Sandy and the holiday season was saddened by the horrific violence in Newtown, let’s all agree that 2013 must be a year of hope,” Marshall said. “Our hope for getting guns off the street is gaining momentum. Here in our city, we have a long-standing and tireless leader in this effort: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have seen the lowest number of murders in the past 40 years.”



Star of Queens: Shawn Slevin, founder, Swim Strong Foundation

| mhayes@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Shawn Slevin founded the Swim Strong Foundation in 2009. Slevin and her team of about 55 volunteers provide water safety and swim programs to nearly 2,000 people throughout Queens and parts of Brooklyn. Being a nonprofit, Slevin also works on connecting with local businesses to acquire funding, and she also looks to partner with different health care companies who occasionally come to any of the foundation’s four locations to give talks about the importance of good nutrition and great exercise, which ultimately can fend off diabetes and obesity.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: A New York City native, Slevin was born in Manhattan and raised in Woodside. She attended the Mary Lewis Academy and Baruch College, and swam for a time at both institutions. Before starting the Swim Strong Foundation, Slevin coached for 40 years at St. Sebastian’s in Woodside, and is grateful to have had the “over 8,000 children that she has had the fortune of working with.” Slevin credits her strong work ethic to her family, and said she thinks that “we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: Instead of pinpointing one specific moment that trumps the others, Slevin believes that her entire experience with the foundation was and will continue to be eternally rewarding. “To be able to do this work is incredible,” said Slevin. “To be so fortunate to have found your advocacy in life and be able to embrace it and change not only your life, but others that you work with – that’s powerful.”

INSPIRATION: Slevin was initially inspired to begin her foundation because of the students she coached in her early years. Many of them kept in touch with their former coach, and would tell Slevin that the work they all did together really set them on the right path for success in their future. The swimming routine helped them apply discipline to other areas of their lives, such as schoolwork and overall focus, and Slevin wanted to take that to a broader scale. “It’s not about what we do in the pool, it’s about how we live our lives,” said Slevin. “It’s about helping people first and foremost; helping them get the skills and the confidence to protect themselves and be strong in the water, and how do they take that into other aspects of their lives.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: As a nonprofit, the Swim Strong Foundation doesn’t have a budget to go out and advertise, so it relies primarily on word of mouth. Slevin said that the biggest challenge for her is figuring out how to get to the next level – ultimately, she hopes to be able to spread outside of Queens and Brooklyn.