Water Safety and Free Swim Lessons in Wake County

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Photo by Stock.Adobe.com – sir.chitvises.

BY Kyle Marie McMahon

As the temperatures rise and the local pools open, it’s important to remain vigilant and safe around water. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 4,000 people die every year due to accidental drowning. Drowning is often silent, looking nothing like it appears in the movies, and usually quick, happening in less than a minute.

Eighty-eight percent of child drownings occur even with at least one adult present, which is why swimming skills and water competency are essential for all ages. Children can start taking lessons as young as six months of age. 

Unfortunately, the costs associated with swim lessons are often a barrier for those most in need. According to USA Swimming, 79 percent of children in low-income households ($50,000 or less) have little-to-no swimming ability. But thanks to increased awareness and programs like National Water Safety Month in May, free or reduced-fee swim lessons are available.

Here are some local organizations who offer free swimming opportunities for low-income families. Please use this information yourself or share it with people or organizations you think might be interested.

Photo by Stock.Adobe.com

Triangle Aquatics Center offers its Make a Splash initiative in partnership with USA Swimming. Children who are eligible for the school system’s free or reduced lunch program can submit their letter to qualify. Once approved, children are enrolled in the TITANS Aquatic Program’s Learn to Swim classes with swimmers at the same skill level, regardless of economic status.

The YMCA of the Triangle’s Swim for Life program provides free swim lessons for both children and adults. Eligibility is based on income qualifications but the classes are held at all Wake County YMCA locations periodically through the year.

Hope Floats Foundation partners with swim lesson providers to award scholarships and tuition assistance for families who qualify based on income eligibility. Once approved, children can take lessons at participating businesses, such as SwimKids and British Swim School.

During the fall and spring semesters, the student-run organization Dive In: Chapel Hill pairs University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students with children ages 4–14 for free swimming lessons. Held on Sundays on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus at Bowman Gray Indoor Pool, the program seeks to help families who are unable to take traditional lessons due to language barriers or cost.

If you don’t qualify for one of these programs, Wake County has numerous options for paid swim lessons. Typically, group lessons will be cheaper than private or semi-private ones, but depending on your needs, one-on-one may be a better option. Many locations offer a free skills assessment to determine what is best for you.

Water safety knowledge is just as important as swimming competency. Even if you and your family are skilled swimmers, it is essential to teach children about other water safety measures.

The American Red Cross provides a free online safety program, Longfellow’s WHALE Talesuses videos, lesson plans and posters to teach kids (and parents) how to be safe in, on and around water. In addition, The Red Cross has many resources regarding safety not just at the pool but also at the lake, beach and home.

Stay cool this summer, but also stay safe! You are never too old to learn to swim or brush up on your water safety skills.

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