I was born without part of my left arm, but for many years, I didn’t even realize the difference. My mom never put any restrictions on what I could do.

When I was four, she put me in swim lessons because I loved the water. She told me recently people would often ask her why she was setting me up for failure. But she ignored them. I continued swimming and dreamed of teaching lessons one day.

After moving to Oakville in Grade 9, I decided to get my Bronze Cross certification. That’s when I came to the Y. As soon as I walked through the door, I felt a sense of community. All the aquatics staff, especially Nadiya, were so supportive.

The day I got my Bronze Cross, I was so excited! I told Nadiya I wanted to move on to NLS certification and when I finished that course, she asked what I wanted to do next. I told her I wanted to get a job, but not sure if I could. Without hesitation, Nadiya said, “I want to offer you a job.” I couldn’t believe it. Tears started running down my cheeks and I said, “Me? You’re offering me a job?”.

After becoming a lifeguard, I got the chance to teach Bobbers lessons. During my first class, I couldn’t wear my prosthetic arm. Some of the kids seemed scared of me. When I asked Nadiya what to do, she asked me for a solution. I knew then, this was my chance to “teach”.

I started my next class with a lesson about my arm. I told the kids, “This is how I was born. Everyone is different. I’m proud of who I am and you should be too.” The response was amazing!

I have never looked at myself as having a disability, and neither did the Y. They looked at me as a person and helped me achieve my dream.

– Magdalena

Did you know?

In 2017, 1,930 children, youth and adults learned water safety skills in swim lessons, starting their path to career opportunities and belonging in YMCA Aquatics.

Says our Team Leader of Aquatics at the YMCA of Oakville: “What we do here is unique. Young kids start out taking swim lessons, move on to volunteering and then training, get their certification and then a job. Simply teaching them a course without giving them the chance to apply their skills is a mistake. We give them opportunities to move on.”