Deanna loves everything about being in the water; playing in the pool and relaxing by the beach were some of her cherished experiences.

“I like the water because of the people, meeting new people in the water.”

Unfortunately, there are no pools to socialize in her neighborhood. What’s more, she did not know how to swim well enough to save her life.

“In my neighborhood – [the amount of] people [who] know how to swim is I think about like seven or six, or five of us.”

It’s not surprising; according to the Red Cross only 50% of the population doesn’t know how to swim, and only 9% of kids like Deanna participate in after-school programs to learn essential life skills like swimming.

IMG_7582To help combat this, SwimRVA has teamed up with NextUp to provide students with a cost free learn-to-swim program at the City of Richmond Bellemeade Community Center. The two participating schools are Lucille Brown Middle and Boushall Middle, where Deanna attends.

“Since my sister is coming [to Boushall Middle School] I’m gonna tell her ‘You should try NextUp!'”

NextUp is a non-profit whose mission is to provide middle school students with year-round access to a wide variety of hands-on learning. They partner with over 20 community organizations to ensure students are productive, engaged and having fun in organized out of school activities.

“Once she’s in NextUp, I’ll tell her ‘You should try swimming, because swimming is fun!'”

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SwimRVA is a non-profit organization that serves as a catalyst for regional aquatics and community-wide focus on water safety, health and fitness, sports tourism, and competitive aquatics.

The students in the program follow the same effective curriculum as the SwimRVA Swim School. It’s focused on seven stations grouped by related skills.

“I used to be afraid of water, but the instructors helped me process [swimming] and not be afraid.”

Besides safety, Deanna has also gained a healthy hobby that lasts a IMG_7641lifetime.

“Water, it’s not scary. Like, if you need a workout or something, just go swim. It’s fun, entertaining, it gets you into shape.”

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Thanks to the collaboration between SwimRVA and NextUp, Deanna has become a success story for her neighborhood and an inspiration for her family.

“Now I know how to swim!”

Click the video above to see how the community collaboration is changing the lives of youth like Deanna.


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The Mission of SwimRVA is to elevate swimming in the Richmond region making water safety and aquatic fitness more accessible to all. We promise to serve as a catalyst for regional aquatics and community-wide focus on water safety, health and fitness, sports tourism, and competitive aquatics. Donate today to help support our mission.