‘SwemSchool’ helps kids overcome fear of water

by Stephen Milligan - the Walton Tribune

Trish Miller is offering swim lessons to help young kids and as well as adults to not fear the
water. Photo credit: Stephen Milligan | The Tribune

Every year, children drown because they were never taught how to swim. Trish Miller was almost one of them. Miller grew up in a family that treated the water as dangerous.

While her brothers were taught basic swimming in the most rudimentary of ways — “my dad threw them into the water and told them to figure it out,” Miller said — as the only girl in the family, Miller was spared that process, instead simply kept away from the water, only to face a near drowning when she was a teenager.

“I grew up near the water but we never went,” Miller said. “It just wasn’t part of our culture. I didn’t learn to swim until I was already an adult.”

But Miller knows water safety can be a life-saving skill set for children, particular in the African American community, which often has less connection to water-based activities, and wants to change that.

Her program, SwemSchool, is designed to do just that.

“It’s about bringing the life-saving skill of swimming to those communities with the highest rate of drownings,” Miller said. “We have a mission of increasing diversity in the space.”

SwemSchool already has three other locations in the metro Atlanta area and has now started classes in a fourth location through a partnership with Walton Athletic 24 in Monroe. Classes started a week ago and already Miller said the response is booming, due in part to scholarship offers for the first few dozen kids to give them several hours of instruction for free.

“We started with 50 slots open and after Saturday, we have about 10 scholarships left for the kids,” Miller said. “It was bigger than I expected.”

But Miller stresses the program is not just for kids.

“We have youth classes for kids as young as 4 months old,” Miller said. “But we also have adult classes at all skill levels, whether you don’t know anything about swimming or know the basics and just want to get better.”

SwemSchool currently meets at Walton Athletic 24 three days a week, from 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Miller said working with the local gym has been great.

“The partnership with Walton Athletic 24 has been great,” Miller said. William Berry, owner of Walton Athletic 24, agreed.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, not just for us but for the community,” Berry said. “We have a lot of African-Americans who need to know how to swim, in particular. This program is quite impressive and much needed here in Walton County.”

For more information or to sign up for classes, call Walton Athletic 24 at 770-267-0031

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