UNCW Learn to Swim program provides free lessons to D.C. Virgo students

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:16 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The University of North Carolina Wilmington is providing two weeks of free swimming lessons to 24 students from D. C. Virgo Preparatory Academy as part of a pilot program that began Monday and runs through June 18.

Two Learn to Swim sessions, taught by the UNCW Swimming and Diving head coach Bobby Guntoro and his team of instructors, will take place at the Earl Jackson pool on Wilmington’s Northside; the second session will run from June 21-July 2.

The goal of the program is to demonstrate the importance of learning to swim and increase awareness with the hope that, ultimately, swim lessons may be incorporated into the public school curriculum.

The UNCW Learn to Swim program pilot evolved from research into higher drowning rates in Black and other racial minority youth conducted by UNCW staff member Ann Freeman for her Master of Public Administration degree.

The research was also driven by Freeman’s personal experience — she lost a classmate to drowning while she was in high school. Sadly, her nephew also drowned the day she presented her research.

“The need is clear,” said Freeman.

She said learning how to swim wasn’t a priority growing up and would always hear “Don’t go near the water; you’ll drown,” in her childhood.

Although 24 middle-school students will benefit from this opportunity, 60 applied; so, many had to be turned away.

The program is partnered with NSea Swim, which promotes swimming inclusion and offers free lessons at the city-owned pool at 750 Bess Street, Wilmington.

Freeman also serves as assistant secretary to the UNCW Board of Trustees and her dream is for all students to have access to swimming lessons.

“We are trying to show how we could build this into the curriculum of the public schools.”

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