Much More Than a Campsite

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Kokokahi is YWCA Oahu's beautiful 11-acre property in Kaneohe. You may know that Kokokahi offers swimming lessons, spring and summer day camps to children ages 6-12, and a monthly family night featuring a pool-side movie. But, did you know that Kokokahi is home to an amazing adaptive aquatics program?

While there are many who have fond memories of learning how to swim at the Kokokahi pool, a special group has also learned to love the water here - the students of the adaptive swim classes. For over 20 years, Kokokahi YWCA has been offering adaptive swim classes to the Windward community. The YWCA currently operates an adaptive aquatics class and the State's Department of Education (DOE) Adaptive Swim program, providing swim instruction to students with disabilities and severe impairments of all ages.

The woman behind the program is Erin Hisatake or better known to her students as simply “Miss Erin”. Erin developed the current adaptive aquatics classes when she started working with the DOE as they came to Kokokahi each year for a month. Students from Heeia Elementary, King Intermediate, and Castle High School joined her classes and for the 13 years Erin has been with YWCA O‘ahu, she has been developing her classes to focus on what students of all ages and abilities can do rather than focusing on their disabilities and challenges. “Every student comes with different kinds of challenges and the students are usually treated differently because of them.” However, Erin explains that what her students want and experience in her adaptive swim classes is the feeling of being no different than all the other students. 

The experience of being treated just like any other student has allowed her students to concentrate on swimming better and faster instead of on their inhibitions and anxieties. “Once they enter the water, their demeanor changes.  Being in the water is a treat,” Erin says. Parents even notice. They have mentioned to Erin that sometimes when their children do not swim for a while their behavior changes, but when they resume swimming their behavioral issues are minimized. Most would credit Erin’s passion, ability, and dedication, but she credits much of the success of her students to the splendor of the place and the community, “There is something about Kokokahi,” Erin explains, “when students come, they and their parents are elated because they fit in immediately.”

Erin says she loves to see the progress of her students as the sessions go by. She can see increased swimming and water skills, and, more importantly, increased confidence. The motivation behind the students is driven by their want to succeed and win. The students in Erin’s class make up a team she coaches called the “Windward Warriors” whom train to compete in the Special Olympics. During this year’s Special Olympics Summer Games swim competition, every one of her students who participated received a medal. In total, the Windward Warriors took home a total of gold medal, 4 silver medals, and 1 bronze medal. The Summer Games are a highlight of their hard work and she’s so proud of them for doing so well this year.

Even if the classes and students change, you can still hear Erin say, “Keep going, keep swimming, never give up!” Erin admits, “they actually say this to each other and so I’ve adopted it.  In teaching my students, the real blessing is they actually teach me never to give up.”

To learn more about the adaptive aquatics classes and to enroll in classes, please visit the Adaptive Swim section on the aquatics website:  https://www.ywcaoahu.org/aquatics.  To sponsor adaptive swim scholarships, please visit:  https://www.ywcaoahu.org/donate/