SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Every year, thousands of children die from unintentional drowning. To combat those numbers, every second grader in Caddo Parish this year has the opportunity to learn basic water safety.
"There are no words to express the importance. It's life and death," said Gary Lash, the CEO of the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana.
Caddo Parish schools have teamed up with the YMCA and Community Foundation to give every second grader the chance to participate in "Swim for Life." The 4-day program is part of the PE curriculum, and students can learn water safety and swim survival during that time at the BHP Billiton YMCA in Shreveport.
This is the first year Caddo Schools have offered the program, which helps get kids comfortable in and around water, and teach what to do if they ever get in trouble in the water.
"When we ask ourselves, do we know that our kids have the experiences to, if they ever found themselves in a body of water and they were drowning, do they have the experiences to save themselves. The answer simply is no," said Keith Burton, the Chief Academic Officer at Caddo Parish schools.
Planning to offer this course started a little more than a year ago. Over 29 weeks, the 3,000 second graders enrolled in Caddo Schools will all have the chance to take this course at the new YMCA.
The kids with the greatest need are taking the class first, learning safety on both dry land and in water.
"We know that we have a large amount of students who live in impoverished homes and situations, and they do not have, for generations, anyone who has learned to swim. So we wanted to stop that cycle," said Burton.
The course takes place over four days at lunchtime and the difference between day one and day four.
"You see a transformation in their familiarity with water," said Lash.
Each week, a different school takes the course. The program will go throughout the school year until all schools have participated. Caddo schools are looking to expand this program beyond this year.