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Many Black and Latino kids can't swim. The Dallas YMCA wants to teach them

A young boy smiles at the camera as he is guided through a pool with the help of an older swim instructor
Nicole Rosales
Kids can enjoy free swimming lessons at the YMCA rec centers or their own apartment complexes around the city.

In effort to bridge racial gaps in water safety, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas is offering free swimming lessons this summer to kids who need them.

“Our goal is to just make sure that every kid has access to swimming lessons,” Jen Pewitt, associate vice president of aquatics, said.

Research shows drowning is one of the leading causes of death for kids — and Black and Latino kids are more likely to drown than white children.

Through the Safety Around Water program launched nationwide in 2016, the YMCA is tackling the issue by partnering with apartment complexes across Dallas to offer free lessons to children who might not have access.

Besides basic swim lessons, the program offers exercises to help kids adjust to being in the water, safety instructions, and fun activities that reinforce swimming skills.

“Whether you're taking lessons at our local Y or whether you're at an apartment community,” Pewitt said, “the Y never turns away a family for their inability to pay for lessons.”

Last year, the program served nearly 6,000 swimmers in North Texas. It targets areas like South Dallas that Pewitt said have a high incidence of drowning at apartment communities that are heavily populated with kids.

Daisy Mujica enrolled her two daughters in the program and has seen the benefits it brought her family. Both her daughters enjoyed the lessons so much that they joined the YMCA swim team.

“I've seen a lot of boosts in confidence throughout their learning, their new skills,” Mujica said. “It has been developing into a lifelong love for swimming.”

She recommends the program to her peers for the extra insurance of safety during the summertime.

“They become more comfortable with the sensation, at their own pace, of course,” Mujica said.

Registration can be found on the YMCA website.

Zara was born in Croydon, England, and moved to Texas at eight years old. She grew up running track and field until her last year at the University of North Texas. She previously interned for D Magazine and has a strong passion for music history and art culture.