Palomar Principal Touts a Good ‘Splash’

Palomar Elementary Principal Erika Taylor is the kind of leader who thrives in the deep end of the pool.

Taylor is a former lifeguard and swim instructor who can personally attest to the benefits of the City of Chula Vista’s swimming program. When Kaiser Permanente kicked-off the seventh year of “Operation Splash” in Chula Vista, Taylor was at the Parkway Aquatic Center to help spread the word. Kaiser Permanente is providing a grant of $55,000 to the Friends of Chula Vista Parks and Recreation, which will fund free swim lessons for over 1,200 children.

“Children who benefit from this program can then embrace a love for the water, including becoming junior lifeguards and swim instructors. That’s what happened in my case,” Taylor said. “As a former lifeguard and swim instructor here in Chula Vista, I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of a continuing partnership that enables students to receive free swim lessons.”

Operation Splash began in 2006 in Los Angeles, and with its expansion, the program has grown to a $2.5 million commitment to improve swim safety and expand access to public pools throughout Southern California. A total of $365,000 in grant funding has been provided, over seven years, in Chula Vista. “This program is a demonstration that through good community partnerships, we can make a difference in the lives of children. In addition to promoting safety, Operation Splash encourages children to be more active, and the more active they become, the healthier they will be,” said Jane Finley, senior vice president and executive director for Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

Kaiser officials, city and school leaders made the announcement at the Parkway pool, which was filled with fourth grade students from Silver Wing Elementary School who were in their second week of swim lessons. Judging from all the splashing and kicking in the water, the students couldn’t have been more pleased.

“Operation Splash is a well-received program in Chula Vista that strengthens kids’ swimming abilities and greatly helps to prevent accidents around pools,” said Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox. “I look forward to its continued success.”

The Operation Splash mission is to support aquatic facilities and swim programs that help increase physical activity in low-income areas, diminish the risk of chronic disease, and build strong bodies. The program encourages all participants to become water-safe in a fun and healthy environment.

“Only a small percentage of children in elementary school are truly water safe,” Taylor said. “With the second highest drowning rate in California, Chula Vista needs this partnership. Together, we can help keep our children safe, healthy, and active.”

Children should learn to swim at an early age, officials said, and should never be left unattended near a pool. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4. For more information about water safety, visit http://watersafety.chulavistaca.gov/.

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