December 5, 2023
Metroparks to Continue Partnering with Local Organizations to Provide Free Swim Lessons for 6,000 Youth and Adults Annually by 2028 Through Its Everyone in the Pool Program
Drowning is an epidemic that hits low-income families and children of color the hardest, with Black children aged 5-19 five and a half times as likely as white children in the same age group to die from drowning. In Detroit, nearly 80% of children residing in households with incomes below $50,000 do not know how to swim and a substantial 70% of youth have little to no swim experience. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks is working with partners to reverse these trends and save lives by increasing access to free swim lessons and lifesaving water skills in underserved communities through the expansion of its Everyone in the Pool swim initiative.
A study conducted in 2021 by consultant Counsilman-Hunsaker revealed a multitude of regional barriers to swim, with the most significant obstacle being the high cost of swim lessons. The study was used by Metroparks and its partners to identify the highest needs for programs and areas for growth that would have the greatest impact, starting with supporting multiple partners in the great work they were already doing in their communities.
Through the Everyone in the Pool initiative, the Metroparks, in collaboration with its community partners, has already provided more than 4,600 children with life-saving swim lessons free of charge since 2021. Demand and interest for free swim lessons remain high, as evidenced by registration for 2023 lessons filling up within 24 hours of opening to the public.
“Metroparks and our community partners have made incredible progress in recent years to provide more families in Southeast Michigan with swim lessons and water skills so they can safely enjoy spending time in pools and bodies of water, but the reality is, while we’ve done so much, there is still so much more that we all can do,” said Metroparks Director Amy McMillan. “By partnering with community organizations to provide free lessons and expanding lifeguard training programs, we as a community can help prevent families in Michigan from experiencing the often preventable devastation and tragedy of drowning.”
That’s why Metroparks has developed a 5-year plan to expand the “Everyone in the Pool” initiative through 2028. Through this 5-year plan, Metroparks has committed to providing 6,000 free swim lessons each year with support from existing and future partners. A fundraising goal of $1.5 million has been set to make this expansion possible.
The expansion of the “Everyone in the Pool” initiative is part of the Metroparks’ broader regional effort toward a future in which we have reversed the staggering statistics in southeast Michigan and at least 70% of residents possess essential swimming skills. Goals for the program include:
- Expand the Everyone in the Pool program to support at least 6,000 swim lessons annually by 2028.
- Increasing the number of certified lifeguards and swim instructors in southeast Michigan so that by 2028, Metroparks facilities and partner swim lessons facilities remain fully staffed all summer long
- Increasing water fitness programs at the Metroparks by 20% yearly through 2028.
- Securing external of at least $1.5 million to expand the free Everyone in the Pool program and regional lifeguard training programs.
- Creating a Southeast Michigan Swim and Water Safety Coalition by the end of 2025
“Detroit Parks and Recreation understands the value swim lessons have on individuals, especially communities of color,” emphasized Keith Flournoy, Deputy Director of Detroit Parks and Recreation. “Swimming shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury but as a necessity because it’s a life-saving skill that has ripple effects in communities like Detroit. We are thrilled to work with partnering organizations like Metroparks with the same mission of breaking the stereotype to bring everyone to the pool while equipping them with the resources to feel comfortable and confident in the water.”
The Everyone in the Pool program will continue in 2024 with winter swim lessons at indoor partner locations offering free lessons to 1,023 participants from January to May 2024 at the Howell-Highlander Fitness & Aquatic Center, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Ann Arbor YMCA, and City of Detroit Parks & Recreation locations. Adult-only swim classes will also be available at multiple YMCA locations in southeast Michigan. Additionally, a lifeguard training pilot program is being developed in partnership with the YMCA to begin expanding training opportunities to address the regional lifeguard shortage.
“One of the main objectives of the partnership between the YMCA and the Metroparks is offering free swim lessons to participants of all ages, with the goal of reducing the drowning rate,” said Amanda Barone, Regional Aquatics Director for YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. “A key factor in that is having enough lifeguard staff to run these activities. To help move our shared goal forward, we are excited to partner and offer an upcoming pilot program of free lifeguard classes in early 2024 to eligible applicants who are interested in working at any Metro Detroit YMCA or the Metroparks.”
The Metroparks hosted a press conference today at Adams Butzel Complex in Detroit in partnership with Detroit Parks & Recreation, YMCA, Oakland County Sheriff PAL and community members to celebrate the expanded initiative. In attendance included Metroparks Director Amy McMillan, Metroparks Board of Commissioners Chair Bernard Parker, Deputy Director of Detroit Parks and Recreation Keith Flournoy, Oakland County Sheriff PAL Executive Director Lauren Fuller and YMCA Metro Detroit Regional Aquatics Director Amanda Barone.
“At PAL, we talk a lot about safe, accessible programs first; but when we have those in place, the next beautiful benefit is expanded, long-term, joy-inducing opportunities for the whole family to take part in for life and there is really no better opportunity than swimming for that,” said Lauren Fuller, Executive Director, Oakland County Sheriff PAL. “With no public pools within the Pontiac city limits, simply accessing the facilities to teach and promote safe practices around water poses a challenge. This partnership not only helped us troubleshoot finding accessible spaces but also provided inclusive lessons for families in our programs.”
If you are interested in signing up for swim lessons or partnering with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks to expand access to critical life-saving swim skills, please visit www.metroparks.com/everyone-in-the-pool/.