Pascagoula students get free swimming lessons - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Pascagoula students get free swimming lessons

By Patrice Clark – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Each year, more than 830 children die in the United States as a result of unintentional drowning, that's according the Safe Kids USA Organization. Students from the Pascagoula School District are learning water safety so they won't end up a statistic. 

More than 100 third graders couldn't wait to get off this bus Tuesday morning and dive into an Olympic size pool in Gautier. The little ones are learning how to swim. 

"It is a very fun thing to do and you can go under the water," one third grader said about the class. 

There were a few kids who weren't as eager to step foot in the water, but they were encouraged by their classmates. Red Cross Director Page Roberts is partnering with two other organizations and former Senator Trent Lott's son to sponsor the free water safety course.

"The Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier is providing the pool. The YMCA is providing the instructors, and we had some donation money from Chet Lott," Robert said. 

Roberts said the students were selected based on background and their family's financial hardships. 

"The majority of them are black and/or poor, so statistically, they are not going to be taking swimming lessons during the summer," Roberts said. "What is even more important to note is  The Center for Disease Control study shows that African American kids from ages 10 to 14 are four to five times more likely to drown than Caucasian children."

For the next 10 weeks, the kids will learn how to float, tread, and breathe properly in the water.  YMCA's Dan Hecker said those lessons are vital when you live in an area surrounded by water. 

"Basic survival skills, if they come away with that we will be very happy," Hecker said. 

The kids are also getting a good workout. With Mississippi being the fattest state in the country, teachers say programs like this do make a difference. 

"They are enjoying it and it is helping them at the same time," physical education teacher Justin Black said. 

Organizers hope more donations flow in, so they can pay for more kids to learn how to swim and be safe around water. If you would like to donate to this water safety program, call the Southeast Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross at (228) 762-2455. 

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