5 Ways to Help Prevent Youth Drowning

Last updated: May 26, 2022, at 9:56 a.m. PT

Originally published: May 26, 2022, at 9:56 a.m. PT

Swim safety tips

Washington is home to an abundance of outdoors wonders and nature lovers. With nearly 8000 lakes, and over 2000 miles of waterfront in King County alone, the summertime is an invitation to enjoy the water and be in nature for many people. But, for others, the water is a source of fear and danger.  

In the U.S. 70% of African Americans cannot swim, according to the CDC. BIPOC children under 4 are three times more likely to drown than White children. Black children ages 5 -19 drown at a rate of 5 times higher than white children. Black children ages 11 to 12, are 10 times more likely to drown than their white counterparts. If parents don’t know how to swim, there is only a 13% chance that their child will learn how to swim.  

This is unacceptable, and a situation created and perpetuated largely through historical inequities, lack of access to pools, and lack of culturally relevant approaches to swim lessons for youth and families. Our BIPOC youth and families deserve equitable access to the lifesaving skills that many of their White peers already enjoy. 

The good news is that drowning is preventable. With a little effort we can save lives. 

The Y made a commitment many years ago to teach every child how to swim by the 3rd grade. By making this commitment, we also disrupt historical harm, remove generational barriers, empower youth and families, and save lives. We do this work for and with our community. Together, we save lives and help empower the futures of those who need us most. 

Here are five ways you can help prevent youth drownings and bring everyone the benefits of learning to swim!

  1. The best way you can teach youth to swim, is by showing them your example. If you're one of the millions of adults who never learned to swim, the Y is here to say, it's never too late. Register to learn to swim today. It's good for your health, sets a good example for youth, and gives you the skills to enjoy being in water safely. 
  2. If you believe in this work, please join the Y in urging congress to increase funding for drowning prevention at the CDC to $5 million, which will help scale proven, lifesaving programs like the Y's Safety Around Water. Write to your senator and congressperson and ask them to support the implementation of America's National Water Safety Plan.

  3. Be a part of the solution by spending your summer with the Y as a lifeguard or swim instructor. Apply for a job today and be a champion for youth while working with a team of dedicated community leaders.
  4. Investing in young people, particularly those who are farthest from opportunity, is key to supporting youth and empowering them with skills that will support them in spirit, mind and body for a lifetime. Support our efforts with a charitable contribution today.
  5. Help spread the word to community. If you know youth and families who want to learn to swim, let them know about our Y programs. If you want to help educate people that "Black people don't swim" is a fallacy, share our Y learning resources with them. If you know people looking for a summer job that is more than a 9-5 and can save lives, tell them we are hiring and would love to meet them. Sharing a simple message on social media and linking to this article is one thing you can do right now to help.


We’re committed to teaching every kid, by the time they go through 3rd grade, how to swim. We can meet the challenge, but we can’t do it alone. It takes an amazing Y staff, committed volunteers and passionate community partners like you. Please join us in this critical work, and help us support youth and foster stronger communities for all.


Category: Water Safety