The return of the hot, humid Louisiana summer means one thing: it is time to swim! Whether lounging in backyard pools or taking a dip in Lake Pontchartrain, it is important to know your basic water safety skills. Every day in the U.S., 10 people die from unintentional drowning. The Red Cross is deeply committed to reducing this figure, and partnered with local swim advocate Latoya Kelly to provide a week of swim classes to local children at Tulane University’s Reilly Student Recreational Center the first week of May.
Kelly is the founder of the Ashley Kelly Swim Program, named for her sister, a victim of childhood drowning.
“My sister drowned in Lake Pontchartrain,” says Kelly, “and we saw that we really needed those swim lessons to try and prevent this from happening to other children and other families. So, we started the swim program.”
Kelly is committed to promoting swim safety among local children and adults. Her swim program is divided into two parts: First, Red Cross volunteers host a free week long swim safety course to lifeguards and swim instructors. The course teaches the volunteers swim safety techniques and guides them on how to train their students. Following this free course, these instructors then spend a week giving free swim safety lessons at local pools throughout the city.
The Ashley Kelly Swim Program teaches kids how to react in a variety of dangerous situations. For example, if the kids see someone else having trouble swimming, they learn to attempt to pull the other person to safety with a pole or branch, instead of putting themselves in danger. They also learn basic swim techniques, like how to properly float in case they find themselves getting tired in the water.
The program also works to teach the five basic swim safety skills. Less than half of Americans can perform all five skills successfully, a problem the program is working to correct. These five skills are:
- Stepping or jumping into water over your head.
- Returning to the surface.
- Treading water for one minute.
- Turning around in a full circle and finding an exit.
- Swimming 25 yards without stopping, and exiting from the water.
By teaching these five skills, the Red Cross hopes to eliminate the preventable tragedy of childhood drowning.
Red Cross trained instructors taught dozens of kids over the course of the week, and will continue to serve the community through its comprehensive instructor training program. Those looking for local swim instructors, swim classes or safety tips for pool management are encouraged to visit SELAAquatics.com.
Through fun and useful classes like the Ashley Kelly Swim Program supported by the Red Cross, Louisiana is becoming a safer place to swim.