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In 2010, Shreveport lost six of its youth to a horrific drowning incident. Takeitha, JaMarcus, and JaTavious Warner and Litrelle, LaDarius, and Latevin Stewart all drowned while trying to save a friend who slid into the deep waters of the Red River. The tragic incident made national headlines, and families across the Shreveport area were stunned with grief. Water safety quickly arose as a topic of discussion, and by the next year—2011—Project Swim was born.
Now in its 8th year, Project Swim is brought to the public by the City of Shreveport, through SPAR, in collaboration with Rock Solid. Project Swim is also funded through a grant by the Fannie and John Hertz foundation. The foundation is a California-based, non-profit organization that has donated over $400,000 to help provide swimming lessons to Shreveport residents.
The swimming lessons for Project Swim each include five, 70 minute sessions. There’s a guarantee of 8 participants to 1 swim coach, in order to assure that all individuals are thoroughly attended to during the lesson.
Over 12,000 residents have learned to swim since the program’s inception. Due to the program’s popularity, registration comes on a first come, first-served basis with Shreveport residents given priority.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional injury death in youth under 19. Swim lessons are the most effective way to combat such statistics, and they can also be a great way to provide fun and exercise to people of all ages.
Swim lessons can also help develop motor skills and coordination, improve cardiovascular health, lessen anxiety and fear of water by promoting water awareness, and teach life-saving skills. Project Swim aims to teach people of all ages the swimming skills needed to stay safe around any body of water—whether it be a pool, lake, or river.
For the summer of 2018, all members of the Warner and Stewart family have learned to swim, along with 1,400 other Shreveport residents. The amount of African American lifeguards working at Rock Solid has increased from 8% to 30%, and the swimming improvement rate from beginning to end of the lessons garnered a 99.3% rating.
Many people have cited that the main reasons why they never learned to swim were because of fear of the water, and lack of access to swimming pools. Thanks to Project Swim, Shreveport residents are overcoming these challenges so that they can enjoy their summers in the pool instead of beside it.