Star of Brooklyn: Shawn Slevin

July 18, 2014 Editorial Staff
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Shawn SlevinFounder of the Swim Strong FoundationCOMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: You can definitely call Shawn Slevin a guru in regards to swimming. She has been a competitive swim coach for over 40 years and with her organization Swim Strong, which began serving New York via the Far Rockaway area back in 2009, has taught over 3,600 students about water safety and how to swim.More impressive is the fact that the foundation – which now reaches Brooklyn and Manhattan as well — is a complete volunteer effort. Most of our instructors have been students of mine who have returned to Swim Strong to give back the lessons they learned and pass them on to others, noted Slevin.

MOTIVATION: After starting to coach swimming at St. Sebastian in Woodside, Queens over 40years ago, what could keep someone in the same line of hard work for so long? I see the lessons that competitive swimming teaches such as determination, team work and self-discipline,” explained Slevin, “and these kids can take these lessons and apply them to everyday life outside of the pool.Slevin believes that competitive swimming will in turn push young children to grow into high functioning members of society. These aren’t just swim safety lessons we’re teaching but life lessons as well, she stressed. Slevin also believes highly in the overall health benefits of swimming. There is no better exercise for all your muscles that also places zero stress on the body than swimming, she said.

OBSTACLES: Although Swim Strong has been teaching so many people about water safety, it is difficult to do on a volunteer basis. I wish I could start to pay some of our volunteers for their efforts because they have been working very hard and have been giving their talents away, remarked Slevin.Funding is an obstacle for any organization but especially for a volunteer one. Slevin is working to gain enough support from community leaders and elected officials so that the efforts of Swim Strong can reach all five boroughs.

GOALS: Slevin is very focused on the road ahead for Swim Strong, especially now that summer is in full swing. I cannot stress enough that anyone who goes swimming needs to use common sense,” she noted. “Water deaths are preventable but only if we take the proper precautions of never swimming alone or without a lifeguard and making sure that both kids and parents know about water safety and how to swim. Slevin has already graduated 60 Parks Department lifeguards from her program along with people going into the United States Coast Guard, Navy and commercial diving.Slevin and Swim Strong will be hosting a week-long event called Worlds of Swimming the week of August 3. It will feature swim teams from all over the world including two Olympic swimmers. For more information on this event or on Swim Strong, visit

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