This summer, the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Swim Lessons for All program will attempt to offer a solution to many water safety disparities. The initiative will specifically look to close the racial gap that exists in the ability to swim.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, nearly 64%of African American children have little to no timing ability, whereas only 40% of Caucasian children have no/low swimming ability.
Kathyrn Saunders, the senior director of partnerships and unity relations at the YMCA of Greater Boston, said the Swim Lessons for All program could directly raise water safety in the community.
“There is a major racial disparity when it comes to swimming and water safety,” said Saunders. “African American children are up to four times more likely to drown than their Caucasian counterparts. This is due to a variety of factors including lack of access to swimming facilities and education, economic factors and a family history that has not included swim lessons.”
Other water safety disparities that exist according to the USA Swimming Foundation include:
- 79% of children in families with household income less than $50,000 have no/low swimming ability.
- Children who qualify for free or reduced school lunch programs are 63%less likely to have good swimming ability.
- 76% of parents reported their children would be more likely to want to participate in swimming if they saw a talented swimmer that looked like them.
- 65% of African American children would like to swim more than they do.
- If parents have no/low swimming ability, there’s a high likelihood their children won’t have good swimming skills — 78% for African American children, 62% among Hispanic/Latino children and 67% for Caucasian children.
Solutions at YMCA of Greater Boston
An estimated 400 children will be beneficiaries of free swim lessons through the Y’s program this summer. Funding for Swim Lessons for All will be provided by Enbridge Inc., the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Yawkey Foundation, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, USA Swimming and the Y of the USA. The program will extend through the fall.
“We hope this will work to reduce the number of drownings this summer and teach children healthy habits around the water, while encouraging them to participate in more aquatics activities,” said Saunders. “This will hopefully lead to more swimmer engagement, better safety around water, end the generational fears around water and reduce the trauma that happens to the community after a drowning event.”
Jeremy Stiles, the senior association director of aquatics at the Y, said additional programming will include providing Safety Around Water training to campers across the association and hosting educational programs and talks like speaking at Boston Public Library events, tabling at community events, etc.
“This message is being spread to our existing members by our staff teams,” said Stiles. “Swimming is an important life skill that the YMCA of Greater Boston believes every child should have access to, regardless of their economic situation. These lessons teach important safety skills while building confidence in young swimmers.”
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