Waterproofing program teaches New York City students how to swim

Lauren Glassberg with the report.
April 8, 2014 2:40:22 PM PDT
Knowing how to swim can be fun, but it can also be a life-saver. Some New York City children are getting the chance to take swimming lessons through a unique program.

The statistics show there's good reason to teach kids to swim.

Nearly 70% of African American children and nearly 60% of Hispanic children have little or no ability to swim.

But come summer time, if they're by a pool or the ocean, the know-how could save their lives.

And even before they get in the pool, there's a learning curve because many of these kids have never been in the water.

They're city kids living in a city where there are very few pools, but learning to swim is invaluable.

"Certainly everyone should learn how to swim, but the data shows that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children," said Carol Tweedy, executive director of Asphalt Green.

And the rate of drowning is three times higher among African-American and Hispanic children than Caucasian.

Which is why Asphalt Green opens its pools to kids, including those from Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, who spend the entire school year getting 'Waterproofed'.

"We say you're waterproofed when you're able to swim 20 yards in deep water unassisted, because then you have a gift that lasts you for your lifetime," said Tweedy.

The program is free and Asphalt Green's Battery Park City location allows an additional 300 kids to jump in.

"Every week, it's like they walk a little bit faster, they get a little skip in their steps and can't wait to get their caps and put them on, because now they feel like real swimmers," said Waterproofing instructor Catherine Kennedy.

Not to mention, swimming is great exercise. But that part isn't quite as obvious to the kids. They're just having fun.

"I can dive from high places and I can go very, very deep," said one youngster.

This year alone, Asphalt Green is helping to waterproof 2,200 kids from 37 New York City public schools.