Free kids' swim program at YWCA helps all kids stay safe in the water

Photo: WLOS

Pool season is here, which means kids, if they haven’t already started, will soon be heading for the water.

Pools are opening across the mountains, and one facility is working to make sure some of the youngest kids are staying safe.

On Thursday we were live from the YWCA of Asheville, where the aquatics director wants every child to learn how to swim.

Kitty Schmidt, director of aquatics at the YWCA, stressed how important it is for everyone to learn to swim, but particularly black kids, because the drowning statistics for black children are so alarming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black children ages 5 to 19, many of whom don't know how to swim, are 5.5 times more likely to drown in a swimming pool than white children, who don't have to overcome generational, historical and cultural barriers to learning to swim.

"This is my pet project. I have always wanted every child to learn to swim, and here in Asheville, the disparity is so high that African-American kids don’t get the chance. Here, we get them in the water," Schmidt said.

She says many disparities between black kids and their white counterparts, one of them being the lack of access.

"It’s generational," she said. "Their parents don’t swim. Their grandparents don’t swim. And they’re scared of the water, so we, in our programs here, because they’re with us, we really talk about safety in the water, and it’s a life-long sport."

The YWCA also partners with the city and Asheville City Schools for other swim programs to help even more kids learn.

She’s getting the kids started young. At the Early Learning Center program, the kids are only 3 years old.

And for them, the swim program is free and part of their Thursday activities while they’re at the YWCA.

Lessons are free through the use of grants. Without them, parents or guardians would pay $14 a lesson, a fee that some wouldn’t be able to afford.

The swim program is available year-round at the YWCA of Asheville.

Click here to learn more about swim lessons for kids at the YWCA of Asheville.