“Get involved in any way you can. Take advantage of every opportunity at the YMCA.”
At the age of 16, Shyam Ravichandran has done more aquatics training than most of us will do in a lifetime.
He completed 12 levels of swim training in just three years and earned his lifesaving designations, including his Lifeguard certification and Junior Lifeguard instructor designation inside of two. But Shyam’s love of swimming is not the result of living by the lakeside or ready access to a YMCA Calgary swimming pool. Shyam grew up a world away.
Born and raised in the intense heat of Chennai, India, he was an active participant in the outdoor programs at YMCA Chennai including badminton, ping pong and cricket but wasn’t introduced to swimming. Shyam loved YMCA Chennai and when he and his family moved to Canada when he was 13 years old, he was excited to see he could continue his Y journey in the frosty, new country. “I had no idea that there were YMCAs all over the world!”
After a brief time in Toronto, the Ravichandrans moved to Calgary. Shyam began his YMCA Calgary journey through the YMCA Achievement Program, YMAP, a stay in school leadership program for immigrant youth. Along the way, he signed up for something that he could never register for back home – swimming lessons – and found his passion.
For three years straight, he burned through swim levels. Every lesson and every level was a new opportunity to succeed. But time in the pool allowed Shyam to learn more than strokes and endurance… it helped him discover his ability to be a leader. In September 2015, Shyam became a YMCA Calgary Lifeguard at the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA and a Junior Lifeguard Club swim instructor a few months later.
“I love the quality of the programs and staff. That is what inspired me. I wanted to become the teacher that my teachers were to me. I took full advantage of what the YMCA had to offer” says Shyam.
“If I have one piece of advice for anyone out there: Get involved in any way you can. Even if you have a low-income, come to the Y. They make the programs affordable for you. Take advantage of every opportunity at the YMCA”