Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Program Gives Swim Lessons to Most Needy

Local Red Cross program responds to higher drowning rates in underprivileged communities.

Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Milwaukee has been selected through the American Red Cross to be part of its Centennial Campaign, which funds swimming programs in underprivileged communities that exceed the national drowning average.

Starting Tuesday, Dec. 10, $5 can pay for eight weeks of swim lessons through Milwaukee Recreation.

“The only way that drowning rates will change is if more classes are available at affordable rates that families can commit to,” said Nicole Jacobson, who has been a Milwaukee Recreation aquatics supervisor for 15 years.

In Milwaukee, the $5 offer only is available at James Madison High School, 8135 W. Florist Ave.; North Division High School, 1011 W. Center St.; Milwaukee High School of the Arts, 2300 W. Highland Ave.; and Vincent High School, 7501 N. Granville Rd.

“We are targeting underprivileged communities and people of color because we learn that our people of color just don’t have the same opportunities as our Caucasian peers have,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said statistics show that 8 out of every 10 kids in a household that makes less than $50,000 have little or no swimming ability. “And if we think about it, a family that needs to eat isn’t worried about taking their kids to recreational activities.”

Normally, it would cost $36 to register a family for swim classes once a week for an eight-week terms through Milwaukee Recreation.

Classes offered at Centennial locations include family classes, youth classes and “tiny tot” classes for parents or guardians with toddlers.

The Centennial Campaign refers to the 100 years of water safety programming from 1914, when inaugural lessons launched, until 2014. In 2014, the American Red Cross unveiled the 100-year water safety campaign to reduce the national drowning rate.

According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, in the United States, drowning takes an average of 3,500 to 4,000 lives per year.

“Milwaukee is surrounded by water, as the largest provider of water safety lessons in the region, our mission is to reach as many individuals as possible,” Denzel Shareef, aquatics supervisor for Milwaukee Recreation, said. “Our hope is this partnership will spur further interest and awareness and make accomplishing our goals much easier.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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