This afternoon at four o’clock the bonitos take to the water in a swim meet at the YMCA. The bonitos are a swim club for children ages six to twelve that introduces young minnows to competitive swimming. Not so much concerned with fast times and medals, the club appears populated by otters rather than the ferocious local game fish. The kids frolic in and out of the pool, their wriggling bodies representative of a time when standing still was the hardest test of all.
Watching the bonitos splash about, it is difficult to believe that just over two years ago there was no YMCA on the Island. Today’s bonitos will soon blossom into makos, a swim team for older kids, which in turn feeds the high school team, now beginning its first-ever varsity season. A success story is emerging from these waters.
Of course the Y is not the only Vineyard organization helping children of the Island begin their athletic journeys. The list is long, including just a few yards away from the Y where the Martha’s Vineyard Arena uses milk crates to help kids barely able to stand find their frozen footing. Squirts to mites to peewees to high school hockey; the talent is homegrown and begins with just a little nudge and something to lean on to prevent a fall.
This nurturing is not solely about athletics either. Take for instance the many young farmers on the Island. So many appear still in their twenties and yet already they are turning back around to make sure their footsteps do not lie fallow. Island Grown Schools understands that a successful crop requires strong roots and that a preschooler in love with kale is as good an indicator as any of a healthy future.
The list of youth programs on the Vineyard is long. An African proverb popularized by Hillary Clinton offers that it takes a village to raise a child. A case could also be made for the converse: it takes a child, or children, to raise a village. A look around the Island these days reveals a very robust village.