Project S.A.F.E. teaches water safety

Published On: October 27, 2021Categories: Top Stories

Project S.A.F.E. is back at select YMCA of Austin locations with busloads of kids eager for swim lessons and safety around water. When local school children participate in Project S.A.F.E., the lessons serve as their P.E. course for the semester. Kids take the school bus every day to the Y for lessons in water safety and swimming.

The YMCA has worked in partnership with Colin’s Hope to provide this program delivering crucial water safety skills to children since 2008. I sat down with Alissa Magrum, Executive Director, and Jessica Brown, Program Director, at Colin’s Hope. They told me more about the program and shared what YMCA members should know when they see participants in the pool on weekdays during the school year.

Colin’s Hope provides Project S.A.F.E. with a multidimensional curriculum that touches on not only swim lessons but also on lessons that take place in the classroom and at home.


Alissa Magrum, Executive Director, Colin’s Hope


Colin’s Hope provides Project S.A.F.E. with a multidimensional curriculum that touches on not only swim lessons but also on lessons that take place in the classroom and at home. This so-called “dry land” curriculum educates kids and caregivers on safety practices in and around water and provides materials that can be taught by parents, teachers, camp counselors, babysitters, and anyone else who cares about children and safety:

  • Drowning is quick, silent and preventable. The signs of drowning don’t look like what you see in movies and on TV.
  • Children should always wait for an adult before entering water.
  • Adults should never assume that more grown-ups equals more safety. Always designate a water guardian whose responsibility is to watch children in and around water.

With early childhood programs like Project S.A.F.E., the Y and Colin’s Hope are able to influence children and their caregivers into adopting safe and healthy habits for life. Young kids’ brains are still building synapses and making connections that form foundational practices throughout a lifetime.

Programs like Project S.A.F.E. are what make the YMCA so different from other gyms. By creating a safer culture of water behaviors, we are building a generation of kids who will grow up knowing about water safety.

When Y members see our Project S.A.F.E. participants in the pool on weekdays, they can feel great knowing they’re part of a community that cares about children and providing lifesaving skills that will last a child’s entire life.

Marisa Hohensee, Aquatics Director at Hays Communities YMCA, describes the impact the program has on kids who participate:

“We have kids with a wide range of personalities: we have the shy ones, the scared ones, the adventurous ones, and the quiet ones.

“We had several kids who started off with only being comfortable putting their toes in the water and by the end of the session we had them splashing water on their face and sitting on the second step about waist deep in the water.

“Then there are the adventurous swimmers, learning how to dive down and ‘rocket ship’ to the surface. No matter what, by the last day of Project S.A.F.E., we are all having a blast showing off our jumps, pushes, turns, grab skills and playing all kinds of games with instructors.”

Marisa says the program is a game changer and should be standard curriculum for all children. As an aquatics director she knows how alluring the water can be, but also how dangerous. “This program is fundamental to preventing the number one most preventable death: drowning.”

Want to test your water safety knowledge? Visit and  be sure to take the pledge to be a water guardian today!

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