FAMU Aquatics Program Teaches Youths to Swim, Chases World Record
By Andrew J. Mitchell, Jr.
Even if the cumulative effort of Florida A&M University and other swimming groups fall short of the Guinness world record for largest swimming lesson, event organizers say they would still feel a sense of accomplishment.
The university partnered with the World Waterpark Association last week in a quest to rewrite the record book. The venture has been an annual event for FAMU in conjunction with WWA since 2013.
The goal is to teach as many youths as possible about swimming and water safety.
“It’s really important to watch them 110 percent of the time,” FAMU Aquatics Center director Jorge Olaves said. “Under the age of 5, most of the death is caused by drowning.”
Olaves believes emphasizing water safety when dealing with kids is vital. From 1999 to 2010, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 46,000 people died from drowning in the United States. Even though the rate of more than 10 people dying per day has decreased for most age groups, children under the age of 5 remain the highest group at risk for drowning.
According to the CDC, fatal unintentional drowning for African-Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages between 2005 and 2009. Olvaes said African-American and Hispanic communities are at high risk when it comes to drowning. He believes it is important to promote swimming in the community and across the country.
FAMU’s Aquatics instructor Jocelyn Brantley helps ensure that children learn how to swim and are comfortable in the water. Brantley has been swimming for 12 years and loves teaching younger children to swim.
“Not a lot of kids are introduced to it like I was when I was a kid,” Brantley said. “I think it’s also relaxing and it can be everything you want it to be. So why not learn how to swim?”
The swimming lessons focus on respecting the rules of the water and learning different strokes. The event also teaches some lifesaving techniques.
Charlene Grace is a parent who brought a whole group of neighbor kids as well as her own to the swimming lessons. Grace likes the one-on-one instruction the kids received and believes “it’s worth the while.”
“I want them to be more comfortable in the water,” Grace said. “It’s a good reminder like all sports with health issues. As kids will be kids, I think it’s a great refresher that the kids get a chance to interact with some older individuals who enjoy the water.”