Reader view: Create a year-round swim club to give Lynnwood youth a safe space

This year, Lynnwood has seen some terrible youth tragedies. With gang activity and violence on the rise in our city, it is imperative that we find safe places for our older youth and teens to be safe, build community, and find a sense of belonging. Having been a resident of Lynnwood for 16 years and an educator in the Edmonds School District, I know firsthand that parents and community members are scared for the children in our city.

Recently, I looked through the Lynnwood Recreation Guide to find out what offerings Lynnwood has for older youth and teens who may be looking for a safe place to be after school. I was shocked to find that our city’s Fall offerings for teens only included guitar lessons, belly dancing, hip hop and teen swim lessons. All of these offerings only focus on teens’ individual skills and accomplishments; there are no team sports or community-building offerings outside of third-party providers. We are sitting on an incredible resource that already has an established reputation as a safe and trusted establishment – the Lynnwood Aquatic Center. Leveraging this resource to provide a year-round swim team would be an amazing way to help fill our community’s need for positive experiences for our youth.

Lynnwood already has an extremely well-attended swim team the aquatic center offers, but it is only offered during the summer season. This seasonal swim team has provided incredible community-building and a safe place for children during the summer. Nearly all the surrounding cities in our area offer a year-round swim club for youth and teens to participate in. We have a world-class aquatic center; let’s use it to create a safe place and a community for our own youth year-round. Some of the youth who participate in the summer swim team at the Lynnwood Aquatic Center do indeed participate in year-round swim clubs, but to do so they must commute to Shoreline, Mukilteo or other surrounding communities. This is creating an inequity for our youth in Lynnwood. Youth and teens who have the means to commute and participate in outside swim clubs will do so, but we’re leaving behind the youth who do not have access to transportation or support to participate in sports in neighboring communities many miles away.
Currently, the Recreation Center’s swim lesson program is hugely popular and has done a wonderful job at teaching our youth about water safety and how to swim. Let’s build on this wildly popular program and give our children who have gained the skills learned in the swim lesson program a swim club in which they can build a sense of community and belonging. This will also undoubtedly give children a sense of pride and self-accomplishment as they compete both as a team and individual in competitive swimming. Now is the time for the City of Lynnwood to use our beautiful aquatic facility to tell the youth of our community ”we see you, we care about you, and we’re here to provide you a safe place to be.”
If we want a community where our children can be safe, are proud to grow up in, and be a part of, we need to create a year-round swim club at our world-class aquatic facility that our older youth and teens can belong to.
With hope and excitement for the future of Lynnwood’s youth,
— By Megan Hayford
Megan Hayford lives in Lynnwood. This letter was originally sent to City of Lynnwood officials and is republished here with permission 
    1. You’re absolutely right! Cascade is a swim club based out of Shoreline and SSCD is based out of Mukilteo. It would be wonderful if we could provide an opportunity like that to our own youth right here in Lynnwood!

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