Swimming is not just a sport or a recreational activity — it’s a lifesaving skill that the leadership of LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, wants its students to have. Last week, the school offered its first-ever week-long summer camp, focused on swimming. About 125 of the 140 attendees, who recently finished third and fourth grade, had never been in the water before.
The students began each day with a different video message from Olympian Simone Manuel, who visited their school in March to announce the program. When she won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics for the 100-meter freestyle, she became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic medal in an individual swimming event. She has been working with the USA Swimming Foundation and its Make a Splash campaign to teach kids to swim and to lower the drowning rate.
The statistics are startling. Every day, about two children aged 14 and under die from unintentional drowning in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many children do not know how to swim: 64% of African American, 45% of Hispanic/Latino and 40% of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability. Manuel points out, adding that “79% of children in households with income less than $50,000 have little to no swimming ability.”
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