This year, 42 Texas children have drowned – 16 of them in a backyard or apartment pool – and three of them were in Bexar County, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Research shows that 70% of African-American children, 60% of Latino children, and 40% of Caucasian children cannot swim. In an effort to combat those daunting numbers, Let’s Swim SA, the USA Swimming Foundation, and the YMCA are among the dozens of organizations offering free or low-cost swimming lessons for both children and adults this summer.
“There is a disparity in terms of the demographic of kids who know how to swim,” said Noah Almanza, San Antonio Parks Foundation president and CEO. “If you look at African American and Hispanic kids, there is this disparity in their knowledge of swimming or being water safe or water conscious. So I think in San Antonio, because of the demographics here, (providing free lessons) has become important to us, in terms of the experience that our park-goers have at San Antonio Parks and Recreation facilities.”
Let’s Swim SA
Let’s Swim SA, a first-year partnership among the San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department, San Antonio Parks Foundation, University Health System, and Security Service Federal Credit Union, will offer more than 2,300 free group swimming lessons this summer. That’s works out to about 100 at each of the city’s 23 outdoor pools.
“Our aim is to improve and enhance parks and green spaces to improve the quality of life (in San Antonio,)” Almanza said. “We know that water-related accidents occur in a big number across the country, so the reason why we want to do (Let’s Swim SA) is (because) there is this need.
“If we can prevent (water-related accidents), why wouldn’t we? It’s just very important to us in terms of the park experience. We want kids to learn how to swim.”
The two-week-long group lessons are offered in three sessions and are available for anyone older than four years old who is at a beginner or intermediate skill level in the water. Those interested can register at the city pool where they intend to take lessons.
Each of the three available sessions include six 45-minute lessons on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday over a two-week period. Session 1 begins Tuesday, June 21, followed by Session 2 on Tuesday, July 5 and Session 3 on Tuesday, July 19. Both morning and evening sessions are available, and specific lesson times vary depending on the pool.
“According to (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than one in five fatal drowning victims are under the age of 14, so we know that with the amount of pools we have in the city of San Antonio, there is an abundance of kids in the summer at the pools and we want everyone to be safe,” said Parker McCoy, account executive at Aguillon & Associates, the public relations firm working with Let’s Swim SA.
“(Let’s Swim SA) is about teaching proper water safety tips so that in the summer, everyone can enjoy the pool and be safe, because we don’t want any accidents to happen,” McCoy added. “It’s preventative. We want everyone to have a fun and safe summer.”
USA Swimming Foundation: “Making A Splash”
The USA Swimming Foundation sponsors the “Making A Splash” initiative, which funds swimming lessons at various locations across San Antonio, making them free or low-cost for participants. To learn more about participating locations, available times, and criteria to get involved, click here.
Since 2007, the foundation has taught more than four million kids to swim. Their goal is to reach one million kids annually by Dec. 31, 2017.
“Teaching four million children to swim is a huge milestone. We know our work will impact even more people in generations to come, as this life-saving skill will be passed on to those who may not have learned to swim otherwise,” stated Debbie Hesse, USA Swimming Foundation executive director, in a news release. “Formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88% and no child should miss out on swim lessons because of barriers we can overcome.”
The YMCA offers swim lessons as well, and individuals can apply for YMCAscholarships and financial assistance to cut the costs. Classes pair four kids with one instructor for 45-minute lessons. Each session, which costs $65 for YMCA members and $95 for non-members, includes eight lessons over the course of two weeks and offers both morning and evening lesson times. Saturday sessions also are available.
To sign up, fill out the registration form here.
*Top image: Summer swimming lessons are available at any City pool. Photo courtesy of the Parks and Recreation Department.