Witmer said when she started teaching first grade at Lincoln-Hancock in 1992, every student took swimming lessons there. And every fifth-grader in the district took lessons at the pool until they passed a swimming test, she said. The fifth-grade program lasted until 2002, when it was eliminated for budgetary reasons, according to the superintendent’s office.
The pool opened in 1975 and until recently had been used mostly during evenings, weekends, and summers, for swim programs run by the Quincy Recreation Department.
Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro said he’d been hoping to find a way to restore the community spirit in the Lincoln-Hancock neighborhood, using the pool as a hub, and had been talking about increasing the school district’s partnership with the Y. He said it took Wool, though, to kick those plans into high gear, working out the logistics for the swimming lessons and getting students excited about the idea.
“Amelia has a tremendous vision of what communities need and neighborhoods need,” DeCristofaro said. “For a high school student, she certainly is exceptional in how she has a grasp of what’s really important. She’s a leader.”
Quincy High School principal Frank Santoro said he wasn’t surprised that Wool pulled together the swimming program. She could probably teach the classes, as well, he said, since she’s a lifeguard and swimming instructor for both the YMCA and the city recreation department. As the student council liaison to the principal, Wool has a desk outside Santoro’s door and daily tasks that include running assemblies and writing a monthly newsletter.
“We depend on Amelia like any other administrator,” he said. “She’s got a quick pace to her because she always has the next challenge.”
Wool, who plans to become a nurse, said she learned to swim when she was little, in part because her mother was afraid of water and wanted to be sure Amelia wasn’t. Wool said she wants to expand the swimming program she started, but for now she’s just glad that more students are learning how to be safe in the water.
“I was actually able to go and observe [a class], and it was absolutely amazing,” she said. “It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s a whole different thing to see your idea unfolding in front of you. I’m so happy [we could] take something that was so heartbreakingly sad, and turn it into something positive for the community.”
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.