I recently learned that a young woman named Carlene Ho who attended the same middle school at the same time as I did, passed away. A few months ago, she was out for the day with friends at a lake, and they apparently left Carlene briefly on shore while they went to swim to a nearby island. Carlene could not swim. Her friends came back to find her face down in the water, and were unable to revive her with CPR. I can only surmise that she attempted to follow them to the island, and drowned in the process.
Come 2014, it will only be recommended that students be able to pass the San Francisco Unified School District's swimming proficiency test, it still a requirement for all public high schools at the time Carlene was attending Abraham Lincoln High School. If I remember correctly, the test consists of being able to swim two laps, (forward and back along the length of the pool,) using any stroke, and treading water for one minute. A little daunting if you don't know how to swim, but also a pretty reasonable requirement. However, the number of students being waived of having to take this test by doctor's notes and the like has been increasing, and resulted in the school board deciding it should no longer be required for graduation.
San Francisco is a peninsula, surrounded by water. (Not to mention also major earthquake territory.) Granted, people don't often swim in the Bay or Ocean because they're both so horribly cold, but there are still pools at hotels, lakes, beaches that can tempt on day trips and vacations. If the swim test requirement had been enforced, maybe Carlene would still be here. Finding the time and a pool to learn might be difficult with the busy schedule of a student, but it is still a skill that can save lives- your own, or that of a friend.
Peace be with you, Carlene.