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Free swimming program for Grier Heights kids going strong

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/11/48/1qWTyC.Em.138.jpeg|210
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    After receiving instruction, swimmers use kickboards during a swimming drill.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/11/48/1vgYt0.Em.138.jpeg|210
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Tammy Nacci gives children instructions on swimming strokes.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/08/11/48/14z0Vi.Em.138.jpeg|210
    TAHIRA BENJAMIN - tbenjamin@charlotteobserver.com
    Instructor Tammy Nacci uses a kickboard to demonstrate kicking while swimming.

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When CrossRoads Corp. started the Learn to Swim program in 2009, Grier Heights parents were skeptical of its staying power. Six years later, families love the impact the program has made.

Learn to Swim is a summer-long swim program, the product of a collaboration between Myers Park Presbyterian Church, which founded CrossRoads, the Johnston YMCA and Antioch Baptist Church. The three organizations work together on funding, transportation and, of course, teaching Grier Heights kids how to swim.

Beyond swimming, CrossRoads is heavily involved in the Grier Heights neighborhood. They have taken a holistic approach to meeting needs of people in the neighborhood who are under-privileged.

CrossRoads’ is working to increase homeownership by building 35 new homes. The organization also collaborates with Freedom Schools and Urban Eagles soccer and mentoring to provide support, enrichment and tutoring to youth throughout the year.

Donnie Daugherty, one of the program’s directors who works on several projects in the neighborhood, said “Grier Heights kids really made the program happen. We asked them what they wanted to do in their free time out of school and swimming was often one of those things.”

Daugherty and her colleagues found research that showed incidents of accidental death by drowning were very high among African-American children, making the program even more necessary.

Middle and high school Grier Heights kids attend the program for free, which team member Rebecca Bowen said “has had a great turnout.”

Reflecting on the best aspects of working with the program Bowen said, “It’s been really encouraging seeing kids come out whether or not they know how to swim.”

Newcomers and veterans alike are taught how to swim when they’re tired, the time when swimmers are most susceptible to drowning.

In life-threatening situations, Daugherty said kids along the side are taught “to call for help while throwing out some sort of flotation device but never, never leave. That is always the last resort.”

Life-saving information is taught to the kids by CrossRoads volunteers and three teachers employed by the Y.

Director Danielle Rader said “we love teaching these kids. Honestly, the hardest part is that we only go once a week. I wish we could be in the water with them every day.”

Tahira Benjamin: 704-358-5009
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