Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a swim lesson at the Schenectady YMCA pool. Head Lifeguard, Brie Bikowicz, was teaching soon-to-be fifteen-year-old Nick St. Louis to swim.

“When he first started at the YMCA, he was afraid to even get in the pool,” said his mother, Amy. “It took a lot of encouragement.”

Nick suffers from several disabilities. When he was an infant, Nick suffered from lead poisoning, which deteriorated the part of his brain that he needs to function.

“I decided to sign Nick up for swim lessons because we always go to the pool or the beach, and Nick just sits in the sand, building things or putting his feet in the water,” explained his mother. “I wanted to give my son the opportunity to be able to swim with his brothers and myself.”

In high school, Amy was on the swim team, and prior to swim lessons, she worked hard to teach Nick how to swim, but it wasn’t the same. So she decided to sign Nick up at the Y. Now two year later, Nick is thriving in the pool.

“I think Nick’s favorite part of swimming is getting to see Brie every week,” Amy laughed. “He has a lot of fun with her. She makes his lessons fun. They play games in the pool, like it’s a race to see who gets to the deep end.”

It’s an amazing thing to see in person. During their lesson, Brie and Nick would play a number of different games to improve his swimming skills that really highlighted his determination to learn.

At one point, Brie threw a toy into the deep end. That didn’t scare Nick. He started swimming towards the toy, saying, You’re not going to get away from me. He pushed and pushed until he collected every toy she threw. And he did it with a smile.

“Every swim lesson, Nick breaks down new barriers progressing forward,” said Brie. “The progress he has made during this time period is truly inspiring and heartwarming.”

It’s amazing to see the chemistry between the two. They even pause for 30-second dance parties, including the classic YMCA song and dance.
“Nick loves listening to music, specifically “Drift Away” by Uncle Kracker,” Brie says, smiling. “He’s a great kid.”

“Nick loves to help people in the neighborhood,” his mother explains. “He loves mowing lawns, raking, and in the winter-time, he loves to shovel and snow blow.”

His fun-loving attitude transfers into the pool. Brie and Nick laugh, play, and have fun while learning valuable water safety skills.

“I want him to be able to learn how to swim. If there was ever an emergency and he was in a situation where he needed to swim, he would be able to,” explained Amy. “I would never want my child to have to drown.”

Thanks to the Y, Nick is now confident in the water and is progressing with every lesson.

His mother, Amy, paused. “Because of Brie, my son is not afraid of the water.”