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Swim Lessons Targeted At Black Children Draw Huge Response

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 21 Jun 2012 04:48pm | comments
Valencia Rice teaches class.

Black children are three times more likely than white children to drown. M-P-B's Jeffrey Hess reports on efforts in central Mississippi to teach more children the life saving skill.

Swimming instructor Valencia Rice works with a group of 5 black girls on their swimming skills at a pool in Jackson.

Before summer is finished, hundreds of black kids will move through her class and learn more about the water and skills that could save their life.

"Sometimes I believe they take it as a joke. It is like 'ok it is water. I can just get in there and do it'. But it is about more than getting in there and having fun. It is about knowing all the safety rules, what to do and what not to do," Rice said.

Only about 30-percent of black kids can swim compared to 60-percent of white children.

100 Black Men of Jackson noticed the gap and launched the classes last year.

Adtokunbo Oredein says they found an unexpected response.

"We started the program and had a target of 125 students that we wanted to teach to how to swim. To be honest I didn't think we were going to get more than 50. (reporter: how many did you wind up with?) 223. I was amazed," Oredein said.

Oredein thinks not knowing how to swim is a primary reason that black children are more likely to die from drowning.

For 15-year old Deidra Ollie learning how to swim about keeping up with her friends.

"Because I always go away to my friends house or girl scout camp and I really want to learn how to swim instead of sitting on the sidelines watching other people," Ollie said.

Learning how to swim could help break a generational cycle....only 13-percent of kids whose parent's cannot swim will learn.

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Valencia Rice teaches class.


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