YMCA offering free swimming lessons - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

YMCA offering free swimming lessons

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

Swimming lessons have started at the YMCA off Howell Road. Head Start kids were learning the basics. The first lesson was jumping in the pool. What's unique about this swim program is it's free. The program is fully funded by Exxon Mobil. Executive Director Ron Smith said these are very important lessons for kids in North Baton Rouge.

"We live in a community where there is an abundance of children who don't have the basic ability to feel safe around water," said Smith. "Swimming has not been their main strengths."

According to the East Baton Rouge Coroner, there were six drowning-related deaths in Baton Rouge last year. So far this year, there has been one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported the drowning rate for African-American children ages five to 14 is almost three times that of white children.

Among the top factors that could contribute include access to pools for learning how to swim, the lack of desire to learn how to swim and not wanting to take part in water-based recreational activities.

With the amount of rain that Baton Rouge has seen in the past week, Smith said knowing how to swim can be the difference between life and death.

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