Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2011

YMCA and PROPEL Put Kids in the Swim

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 By Skip Sheffield

 There is no public pool in Pearl City.

 Boca Raton’s historic minority neighborhood has a recreation center and basketball courts, but if you want to swim you are out of luck.

Because of this, there are fewer proficient swimmers among the young people of Pearl City and other low-income areas compared to more affluent suburban neighborhoods. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Africa-American children can’t swim, according to Associated Press, a figure that is nearly twice that of white children. Black children 14 and younger are 2.6 times more likely to fatally drown than white children of the same age group according to USA Swimming.

PROPEL (People Reaching Out to Provide Education and Leadership) is a Boca Raton-based non-profit organization dedicated to servicing economically-deprived and at-risk youth in Palm Beach and northern Broward Counties. PROPEL regularly plans programs for children during summer vacation, and executive director Tolliver Miller reasoned a learn-to-swim program could be both valuable and worthwhile for its participants.

Miller researched organizations offering group swim lessons and he found the YMCA of Boca Raton was both the most convenient and most cost-efficient. Miller contacted all PROPEL members, and 15 youngsters responded in the affirmative for the inaugural classes.

“We try to work with everyone in the community,” said Jennifer Daratany, aquatic director at the YMCA. “The PROPEL kids took a two-week course called WMCA Youth Progressive Swim Lessons. The emphasis is on stroke development. They really seemed to enjoy it.”

The kids ranged in age from age 6 to 15. Some of the older children later took part in a camping week at the Gulf Stream Council Boy Scout campgrounds in Tequesta.

“We were concerned about the kids in the water on the camping trip,” said Miller. “It was a lot better this year than last, which was our first time at the Boy Scout camp. The kids were a lot more confident.”

When pressed, Miller, 43, who grew up in rural Louisiana, admits he is not much of a swimmer.

“I don’t get in the water very much,” he admits. “But that doesn’t mean the kids couldn’t or shouldn’t enjoy swimming. We just want them to be safe and well-prepared.”

For more information about PROPEL call 561-955-8553 or go to www.propelyourfuture.org. For more information on the YMCA, call 561-395-9622.

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