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'That Could Be Me': New Mpls. Swim Classes Focus On Children Of Color

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," it seems learning to swim would come with the territory. But for some, it's a luxury they just can't afford.

That's where the Hennepin County Sheriff's office and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board come in. They've found a way to offer swim lessons for little to no money. As WCCO-TV found out, they've got reason to believe this program will be life-changing.

The water temperature is about 72 degrees at Webber Park in north Minneapolis. And 19-year-old Mohamed Mohamed is all-in -- as are his students. He is busily teaching swim and dive skills to a class full of young swimmers. The highly-trained swim coach waded through a lot to get where he is.

"I look at myself every day and I'm like, 'You actually, you actually did it,'" Mohamed said.

His parents grew up in Somalia, with little access to water, so swimming was not a priority. As part of a park and rec program, he decided he was finally going to learn to swim.

Mohamed Mohamed and Swim Teachers Rob Stevens, Lexy Miller and Michael Wilson
Mohamed Mohamed and his swim teachers Rob Stevens, Lexy Miller and Michael Wilson (credit: CBS)

"I would see all the lifeguards and everyone swim and have fun in the water, and I was like, 'That could be me,' so I made it my mission my goal to use my knowledge as a swimmer and teach it to others," he said.

And that's exactly what Mohamed is doing as a certified lifeguard instructor.

"It's important that we have people who work for us that reflect the community," said Al Bangoura, superintendent of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. "Looking at Mohamed, he came in here and he didn't know how to swim and he kept plugging away at it."

A new swim class program is called WISE, targeting families with low incomes and children of color who can be at a five-times higher risk of drowning. Sheriff David Hutchinson announced the program poolside Tuesday.

"It's important that we reach children when they are young, especially children of color, they are at disproportionate risk," Hutchinson said.

And seeing Mohamed's success, they have every reason to believe the newest program will yield excellent results.

Mohamed says he credits his success to three water mentors: Michael Wilson, Rob Stevens, and Lexy Miller.

There is still time to get in on this program, and in the water by summer's end. You can also call 612-230-6495 and ask about the WISE swim program.

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