Mountain Recreation: Swim lessons for Spanish speakers just the beginning of Equitable Access
Special to the Daily
Summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It was a summer jam-packed with youth sports leagues, day camps, gymnastics, and 93 summer camps across our facilities and into the wilderness. That’s right, 93.
But what about the adults?
This month we focus on and celebrate our partnership with the Neighborhood Navigators. Over the past two months, our partnership has brought swimming lessons taught in Spanish to women across Gypsum, Eagle, and Edwards.
A relatively new organization, the Navigators serve communities up and down the Eagle Valley and are led exclusively by women. Their mission — to improve the overall well-being of the Hispanic population in Eagle County, based on resident-driven needs.
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Their latest initiative, “Muévete Mujer!” — Get Active Woman! — is focused on empowering women through recreation. The goal is for women to take time for themselves to live healthy and active lives. So far this year, our partnership has served the community through activities including a mental health first aid workshop and most recently the first Multicultural Hispanic Festival.
We would like to recognize all the Navigators and two of our very own, Kacy Carmichael and Carlos Almanza, for providing our first swim lessons taught in Spanish. So far, this program has helped nearly 30 women, ranging from 23 to 65 years of age, across the valley.
The need for this program was much greater than originally anticipated. In the early stages of planning the dates, locations, and curriculum, the Navigators were able to gather a list of over 60 women in a matter of days.
“The need is there. We have countless women with a great desire to overcome the fear of being in the water. They want to learn to swim, not only for themselves, but for the safety and enjoyment of being in the water with their kids. They would like to be prepared while visiting their neighborhood pool or even the beach on vacation,” said Melina Valsecia, manager of the Neighborhood Navigators.
Alas, we started offering lessons in the evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the month of August, at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink. Lessons continued in September at the Gypsum Recreation Center and for the month of October, the program will continue Saturday mornings.
“It was a very important experience which we have never had in our lives. I have been in the water before, but only as far out as I can comfortably stand up. This has changed my life — knowing the basics is indispensable in order to survive in case of an emergency” said Joselyn Regalado, one of the woman who took lessons this summer. “Now I have confidence being in the water and have visited the Gypsum Rec Center pool with my kids more often. Carlos is very kind and has been very supportive of us. Thanks to his help we have drastically improved (our swimming ability) in a matter of a few classes.”
These swimming classes for Spanish speakers in the valley are only the beginning. Change is coming to Mountain Recreation. We hope to grow alongside all of you and offer programs based across our entire community’s needs.
Part of our freshly-distilled organizational vision is adapting to change along with being honest and transparent with our community.
Over the last few months, we have debated internally how to address social science known as “othering.” Although we have started to offer swimming classes and hope to continue those and other programs taught in Spanish in the future — our vision is to create bilingual programming that reinforces community and creates a sense of belonging.
Now, our lofty goal is to find solutions and resources so we can offer one class, no matter the discipline, allowing our community to be active and healthy together, regardless of each participant’s primary language. This requires writing a new program curriculum, certifying and hiring more bilingual staff and taking a leap of faith to do something different than we ever have.
In order to do this, we need your help.
We invite you to come in and apply to work with Mountain Recreation, for any of our 20-plus positions that are currently available. There are opportunities for part-time and full-time positions across our three facilities, and even volunteering positions for many of our youth sports leagues. Regardless of the role, we will provide all the training and tools to set you up for success.
Together, we are better. We invite you to join us in breaking down language barriers.
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