Tracy Slagter
I grew up in central Minnesota, surrounded by lakes.  Despite the fact that I spent many summers playing on the beach and wading in the water, I never learned to swim and was terrified of deep water.  My parents did enroll me in swimming lessons at our local YMCA when I was six or seven years old, but after they dropped me off for my lessons I would promptly put on my suit, go into the showers to wet my suit and hair, and then wait for an hour to be picked up, having never entered the pool at all. 

Over thirty years later, I am a college professor, wife, and mother of two who is tired of being afraid of the water. I decided to enroll in swimming lessons this November, but with much trepidation:  had it not been for a few friends who encouraged me as I sat in the locker room before my first lesson, I might have never put my suit on at all.  But I am so glad that I did!   My swimming lessons have become something not to dread, but to relish.  Every week I am excited to learn something new with the gentle guidance of my instructor, Karen, who has always worked to instill confidence in me while also acknowledging my long-held fears.  The first time I was able to do the backstroke or front crawl by myself was exhilarating.  For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in control of what happened in the water instead of the water having menacing power over me.

I'm now excited to continue swimming lessons and to learn more, to have another lifelong fitness outlet, and to feel safe when I'm in the water with my family.  I feel as though Karen and the YMCA have opened a whole new world for me, and it's one that I'm eager to explore. I have a lot to learn, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity.