Look around Miami and you will notice water everywhere. Our beautiful beaches, the Everglades, swimming pools and lakes – all offer opportunities for fitness, fun and relaxation.
Unfortunately, not everything about the water is sunshine and sandcastles.
Since 2005, Miami-Dade has recorded the second-highest number of drowning deaths, with almost three of every four fatalities occurring among children ages 1 to 4 in a swimming pool. In addition, Florida has the highest drowning rate in the nation for children ages 5 and under.
For more than 50 years, Miami-Dade Parks' Learn-to-Swim Program has trained thousands of kids and adults to reduce and prevent such accidents. The affordable lessons start with parent-tot classes at age 2 and continue for years until children are swimming comfortably. Adults can also learn basic skills.
Rachel Peraza participated in the Learn-to-Swim Program and is now an instructor. She became an avid swimmer at an early age and competed on her high school's swim team.
Peraza loves to swim and enjoying passing that love to her students, including 12-year-old David, who finds the classes a fun alternative to electronics, which consumed his time "all weekend long."
Parents laud the personalized instruction and engaging teaching style that captures kids' attention. Irene Valdez, who has enrolled her 4-year-old son in Learn-to-Swim, likes the amount of attention her son receives. His age group assigns a maximum of only five children per instructor. She also appreciates the playful and personally engaging teaching style of her son's instructor.
Too often, drowning accidents happen at home under adult care following a momentary distraction. Boys are most at risk; one study showed they are more than twice as likely to drown as girls. Simple measures such as installing secure pool fencing and ensuring constant child supervision can go a long way to help prevent drownings.
For Liludmila Lewis, a mom of 4-year-old twin boys, experiencing not one, but two, close calls at pools away from home made getting lessons for her boys a priority. One son was almost 2 the first time he had a close call.
"We were on vacation outside by the pool and he just jumped in," Lewis recalled. "I was able to grab him immediately and pull him out. The second time was at a pool party and again, my son just jumped in. A parent who was in the water who noticed him and promptly rescued him."
Thankfully, she found a way to help avoid further scares: "Having my sons enrolled in Miami-Dade Parks Learn-to-Swim program is priceless."
For a listing of Miami-Dade Parks pools and/or splash playgrounds, use the Park Finder to "Search for Amenities" at miamidade.gov/parks.
Click here for more information about the Learn-to-Swim program and pool locations. Contact pools individually for information on summertime scholarship availability.
Above content provided by Parks-Foundation of Miami-Dade and Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation
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