After years of traveling to pools all over Miami-Dade County to give swimming lessons, a popular South Florida instructor has built her own school, with a heated indoor pool.
Miren Oca's Ocaquatics Swim School has been around for 16 years, but it's been a traveling business. Oca taught in the pools at the University of Miami and Gulliver Academy in Pinecrest, and private back yards.
IF YOU GOThe Ocaquatics Swim School is at 13408 SW 131st St. in Kendall. Classes for kids are offered in the daytime; evenings for adults. For information on schedules and more visit the school's website or call 305-969-SWIM (7946).
Now her school has a home.
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Ocaquatics' $750,000 facility, built "green," opened in July at 13408 SW 131st St. in Kendall, offering swim lessons and day camps.
The school's focus is on water safety, as drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 5 in Florida. The more water-safety skills children have, the safer they are around water.
Though Oca emphasizes that constant supervision is crucial.
"We never say you child is safe in the water, that ‘r' is very important," she said.
Oca was honored last October by the U.S Swim School Association for a spring break program she has offered for years to underprivileged kids. The children get 45 minutes of daily classes for free. She works through camps and holds the program at Gulliver.
Year-round, Ocaquatics employs about 25 people, surging to 75 during the summer. All instructors are trained through the Red Cross in CPR and first aid.
Oca is also certified to teach kids with special needs, including physical disabilities and Down syndrome.
The business had been a good fit for the Coral Gables mom, a UM graduate in biology who started teaching swimming as an alternative to medical school. She thought the move would allow her to spend more time with her infant son, Ian.
Now 17, Ian and her longtime companion, A.J. Kreider, 40, are fixtures at the school, bringing her dinner on nights she works late.
"I think if I had a traditional job, I would have less time with my family," Oca said. "They can always join me here."
She taught herself how to be an entrepreneur.
"I have tons and tons of books," she said.
The school's construction was a big learning experience, too.
It took months just to get the right permits.
"Anyone who says it's easy, they're lying to you," she said.
Her "green'' school was built by an architect certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). An ultra-violet light system kills bacteria. A dehumidifier in the air-conditioning system helps heat the pool.
But the parents come because of Oca.
Adriana Moreno of Doral has brought her 2-year-old son, Sebastian, to her for lessons since he was an infant -- first at the Gulliver pool and now at the new swim school.
"It's worth the drive," Moreno said. "She's excellent."