Group teaches African-American children to swim, scuba dive

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Nashville nonprofit has worked for more than 20 years to stop the deadly trend of African-American children drowning at a much higher rate than other children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American children drown at a rate of nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers.

The Tennessee Aquatic Project works with mostly inner city kids ages eight to 18 years old to teach them how to swim and scuba dive.

“We’re not a competitive swim team,” Co-Founder and Program Director Kenneth Stewart said. “The most important thing is that they learn how to survive, how to swim.”

The motto of TAP is “First we Learn, then we teach.”

Swimming lessons

“We take more of a holistic approach to teaching young people as opposed to Metro where they teach your child to swim,” Stewart explained. “But with TAP, we take a more holistic approach, not only in diving like today. We had an etiquette class teaching young people what forks and what knives to use.”

He continued, “Then next week we are going camping so we do more of a holistic approach as opposed to just teaching them how to swim.”

Contee Harris is a lifeguard with TAP.

He told News 2 that African-American and other inner city kids who don’t know how to swim still enjoy the water.

“I see kids today are really intrigued by water, they really love water but they don’t know the dangers of water,” he said. “I call it unchartered waters without really going through swim classes and swim lessons.”

Once students complete the TAP program they have a number of certifications including being able to dive to help with conservation of marine wildlife.

Alexis Braden has been coming to TAP since she was a young girl.

“I am an advanced open water swimmer, a master scuba diver, a scientific diver, a lifeguard and a core restoration leader,” she said. “It’s a really big accomplishment for me.”

TAP has helped more than 250 young people, according to its information page.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

TAP Alumni include 26 Red Cross certified lifeguards, 14 Red Cross water safety instructors and seven Red Cross certified Life Guard instructors.

There are 26 PADI certified open water divers, three PADI certified rescue divers, 13 PADI certified master divers and one certified hard hat diver.

As a part of the scuba diving program, the teens travel to Cairo, Egypt, Curacao, Netherland Antilles, Nassau, Bahamas and various American destinations.

Stewart said African-American kids, especially children growing up in the inner city, do not have access to a pool.

If their parents are not able to swim that can also cause parents to fear letting their children take swim lessons.

To learn more about what the TAP offers, Visit their website.