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Thursday, Mar 23, 2017

University Area kids dive into learning water safety

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children ages 5 through 9 and third among kids between ages 10 and 14.

It also points out that about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and under.

Moreover, serious water-related injuries can cause paralysis and brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning difficulties and permanent loss of basic functioning.

In an effort to ward off drownings and near-drowning disabilities among children, the University Area Community Development Corporation has partnered with the New Tampa Family YMCA to teach youngsters living in low-income neighborhoods surrounding the University of South Florida how to be safe in the water.

The youngsters’ general lack of access to swimming pools and other water-related recreational activities puts them at an exceptionally high risk for drowning.

In tandem with the UACDC’s two sessions of four-week Dream Catchers summer camp experience at the University Area Community Center, the camp’s 60 participants age 6 to 12 are divided into two groups. Each cluster of kids is bused one day a week to the New Tampa Y, where certified YMCA lifeguards teach them how to swim.

“By providing access to formal swimming lessons, this camp is teaching children a skill that may one day save a life,” said UACDC’s director of development Ronnie Oliver.

The collaboration between the UACDC, a nonprofit organization that serves at-risk children, and the YMCA is in its second year.

Eight-year-old Adwoa Abrokwah, of Tampa, is among the campers learning to swim. She’s mastered the art of floating and some other basic skills.

“I like to do underwater best because it makes me feel happy,” she said.

Camp counselor Delora Holcomb, who accompanies Adwoa and some of the other campers to their swimming lessons, stood by the edge of the pool as the youngsters were given instructions.

“I love working with children, and I think it’s very important for these kids and their parents that they be taught how to swim,” said Holcomb, who during the school year is employed as a Hillsborough County school district social worker.

Standing nearby was New Tampa YMCA Executive Director Monica Mirza, also there to observe the youngsters frolicking in the water.

“It’s wonderful that they are learning about water safety and at the same time are having fun,” she said.

Martine Dorvil, UACDC’s director of programs, agreed.

“The real key to this program is having a great partnership with the YMCA,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn to be safe and have fun.”

To learn more about the UACDC, located at 14013 N. 22nd St. in Tampa, visit uacdc.org or call (813) 558-5212.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at joycecmckenzie@gmail.com.

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