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Cleveland YMCA offering free and low-cost swim lessons to families

The YMCA wants to close the socio-economic swimming divide. Black, Latino, and low income children less likely to know how to swim.

CLEVELAND — Recent drownings at Wallace Lake and Villa Angela Beach in the Cleveland area is putting water safety at the top of many minds. But learning to swim is an area where race and class intersect – with communities of color most at risk when in the water. 

As the weather continues to heat up in Cleveland, and families head to pools and waterways to cool off, the local YMCA is stepping in, to ensure that more children—especially those of color—know how to swim. 

"There is a huge, huge disproportion when it comes to death by drowning in communities of color," says Cleveland YMCA aquatics director Phillip Hearne.

According to USA Swimming Foundation – which collects data about drowning, based on socio-economics - 40% of white children and 45% of Latino children have little to no swimming ability. But black children, at 64%, is the group with the least ability to swim. Hearne says the reason is layered.

"It’s everything from educating the child how to swim in pools and be safe, and when you start working in addressing specifically the fear of water, it’s a multi-generational problem, and then, in a lot of cases, it’s all, too, just the cost of it," says Hearne.

Hearne says no other organization in Northeast Ohio, except the YMCA, offers financial assistance for swim lessons. Earlier this year, the YMCA applied for and received a $10,000 grant from USA Swimming Foundation to provide free or reduced-cost swim lessons to families in the community.

"We have this great, big, giant body of water just north of us with Lake Erie, and it’s an inexpensive place to go and cool off, but if you don’t know how to swim and you don’t know how to be water safe, it can be very dangerous and deadly," says Hearne.

The YMCA teaches all ages and swim levels, and Hearne says if money is the problem, the YMCA will help you out. If you are interested in learning more about the YMCA’s free & low cost swim lessons, click here

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