LeBron James’ I Promise School just kicked off a new kind of curriculum. According to ESPNW, students at the Akron, Ohio center for learning embarked on a week-long summer camp with a focus on swimming. For more than 100 third and fourth graders, it was their first foray into the water.
The LeBron James Family Foundation organized the camp with instrumental help from Olympic medalist Simone Manuel. The local YMCA hosted the students for a two-hour session that includes an hour of swim time and an hour of reflection. They also provided instructors, meals, and additional funding so that families did not have to come out-of-pocket for their children to attend.
“This is extremely important because swimming is a lifesaving skill,” Manuel told ESPNW of the initiative. “No other sport can really say that. It’s awesome that the sport that I do can save their life.”
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, and reported in the July/August 2018 issue of ESSENCE, approximately 64 percent of African-American adults and young people are not proficient swimmers. Furthermore, Centers for Disease Control research shows that Black children ages 5-19 drown at 5.5 times the rate of White children.
The swim camp kicked off a series of month-long themed camps. Others will center on the National Inventors Hall of Fame, community service, and a basketball camp that infuses STEM.
Manuel says she hopes that more minority students will consider the sport of swimming. “Introducing the sport of swimming to them not only saves their lives but allows themselves to see the possibility of becoming an Olympic champion like myself, Manuel said. “It [could] open the door for a college scholarship in a sport that maybe they didn’t feel like was for them.”