Since 2005, an average of 70 children have drowned each year in Texas (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services). Additionally, it also important to note that African-American and Hispanic youth ages 5-14 drown nearly three times more often than their Caucasian peers (CDC).
To address these alarming statistics, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas offers a robust “Safety Around Water” program at its branches, camps, and in local community pools for kids and adults of all ages and abilities. It has been offered for 100 years now and today includes one-on-one, group, and adaptive swim lessons that focus on areas, such as drowning prevention and water safety, water confidence, basic swim skills, and fundamental stroke techniques.
With the prevalence of child drownings and the increased risk among African-American and Hispanic youth, the YMCA knows that swim lessons in South Dallas at its Park South YMCA, are particularly important. This branch has been supported by The Rees-Jones Foundation since 2007 and is a vibrant asset in Southern Dallas. There, they offer two aquatics programs; Urban Swim and Urban Swim Academy:
- Urban Swim is designed to help reduce drowning by teaching children six life-saving swimming skills in an eight-lesson course. Lessons are taught by a certified swim instructor and swimmers are assessed at the beginning and end before earning successful completion of the course. In 2017, 73% of teen participants successfully completed the course and were able to advance to the Urban Swim Academy.
- Urban Swim Academy began at Park South YMCA in 2004. Its purpose is two-fold: to help develop South Dallas teens for the workforce and to help prevent child drownings in the South Dallas community. Teen participants must have successfully completed Urban Swim. The course teaches them to be lifeguards, and also includes professional development and finance management. Upon completion, teens can be hired as YMCA lifeguards and go out into their South Dallas neighborhoods to teach swim lessons.
During this year’s National Safety Month, The Rees-Jones Foundation wants to bring awareness to the importance of drowning prevention and water safety programs. Park South YMCA’s year-round swim program is not only saving lives, but also is giving South Dallas teens a way to earn a living by helping members of their own community.
Rodrigua Ross, Executive Director of Park South YMCA, says that the Y’s swim program “helps to ensure that the tragedy of drowning does not happen. In addition, Urban Swim Academy builds teen’s skills and gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment when they can contribute income to their family’s budget.”