Learning to swim is important for many reasons, and swimming could be a life saver for many children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3,400 people drown in the United States every year. The State of Florida Child Abuse Review Commission found that about 2,282 children under the age of 18 lost their lives in Florida during 2010, and 42 of those deaths were the result of drowning – the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children less than 14 years old. These somber facts highlight the importance of knowing how to swim, especially in Florida. Anyone who knows how to swim may be able to save someone close to them.
The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD), in conjunction with the City of Miami Police Athletic Association (PAL), want to eradicate drowning in the South Florida community, while promoting an active and healthy lifestyle through water, and offering career enhancing opportunities for our youngsters. Swimming requires the use of many muscles in our body, and helps to build strength and endurance and is very beneficial for both the metabolism and cardiovascular system. Water provides a natural resistance when swimming, while also making the activity less strenuous on the body. In most cases, water also provides a natural cooling element.
This year, MDSPD and PAL have joined the GREAT Program, an organization established to help students avoid delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership. As part of the mission and vision of these collaborative groups, and through generous donations from different community partners, children in our communities are learning how to swim. Instructors from the MDSPD have been teaching the GREAT program over the summer at five different sites within the City of Miami under their PAL program. The crowning jewel of this excellent program is the swimming camp, which is being sponsored by the MDSPD under the GREAT program, in conjunction with PAL and Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation. We had about 40 students with 9 camp counselors to support our efforts. The students were sent by bus to Arcola Park Swimming Pool to receive their swimming lessons. The lessons provided lifetime skills to the kids, but also gave them the opportunity to turn these skills into a career as many of them can choose to become certified lifeguards, water safety instructors, or even win an Olympic Medal.
This extraordinary effort has been made possible through the support of all the officers who participated to assist the swimming instructors. The officers got the chance to be visible throughout the training classes and were on hand in case any issues arose. Many of the kids involved in the program had never been to the beach and it was a very special treat for them to learn how to swim. The swimming camp was a great opportunity for our officers to teach our youth about water safety and build relationships with the students.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this a reality. Our children will be safer in the water and they got the chance to have FUN at the same time.