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Audrey Alexis, 74, center, learns with swim with volunteer instructor Melynie Wright during a free swim lesson at the Belle Terre Country Club pool in LaPlace, La., Friday, July 26, 2019. ORG XMIT: BAT1907261008041720

Thank you for the recent article educating parents and the community about the tragedy of children drowning in Louisiana. There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy, such as looking both ways before you cross the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.

For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list, and that’s something we need to change. As the article by Emily Woodruff noted, drowning is normally silent and goes unnoticed until it is too late. A child can drown in as little as six inches of water.

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The risk of fatal drowning is particularly acute among minority communities. African American children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to drown than their white peers. The disparity is partly due to the lack of swimming experience among these children.

Here in the Greater New Orleans area, the Y has taught more than 2,500 children water safety and swimming lessons so far this year. Through the generosity of benefactors and partners, we have been able to offer these programs free of charge to 1,300 children, including children with special needs and diverse abilities. We start with children as young as 6 months. Through Safety Around Water and traditional swimming lessons, the Y hopes to further bridge cultural and access gaps that can prevent some children from learning important water safety skills.

If you know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Instead of keeping your children away from water, help them learn fundamental water safety skills by enrolling them in swimming lessons. These classes can provide them a new, exciting way to keep active and meet new friends.

Rachael Jonas

YMCA of Greater New Orleans

Metairie