PHOENIX, Arizona, June 9. IN Jackson, Miss., an organization called the 100 Black Men of Jackson is working to teach all kids to swim, and the executive director and swim instructor join today's edition of The Morning Swim Show to talk about the second year of the program.
Adetokunbo Oredein and Valencia Rice discuss the origins of the learn-to-swim program and the response to the first summer season of teaching kids to be water safe. In addition to discussing the lack of swimming prowess among minority kids in Jackson, the two talk about the community's amazing call for such a program. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, June 19th, 2012. I am your host Jeff Commings. Last week we introduced you to Milt Campbell who won Olympic Gold in the Decathlon in 1956 but was a champion swimmer in his youth at a time when a number of black swimmers was very low. Here in the 21st Century the number of minorities who could swim is still very low, but a group called the 100 Black Men of Jackson is trying to change that with swimming lessons for intercity kids. The organization's Executive Director, Adetokunbo Oredein, and Valencia Rice, one of the program swimming instructors, joins us to talk about it in the FINIS monitor from Jackson Mississippi. Hi, guys welcome to the Morning Swim Show, how are you today?
Adetokunbo Oredein: How are you?
Valencia Rice: Wonderful.
Jeff Commings: Good thanks. So this is actually the second summer season of you guys doing the swim lessons, correct?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Correct.
Jeff Commings: So how did the idea come about to start this program?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Well we mentor all through the school system here in the Central Mississippi area, and one thing we realized last two summers ago, it was almost 11 children in our district die from drowning basically in water that wasn't too deep, they just didn't know how to swim. All the children said they knew how to swim. When you put them in water they know how to tread the water, but not swim.
Jeff Commings: Yeah that is not actually, it is a sobering statistic, but to us who cover swimming not a surprising statistic, just still a very high number of kids who drown as you said in water that is not very deep. So when you started the swimming lessons what was the community response to it?
Adetokunbo Oredein: We were very surprised. Honestly, I thought that we wouldn't get not one child signed up in the African-American community. We ended up setting a goal for 125 which we thought was extremely too high. We ended up at the end of the summer almost 230 kids we learned how to swim. We taught how to swim, excuse me.
Jeff Commings: Well that is amazing 230, yeah that is, I wouldn't have even imagine that so–
Adetokunbo Oredein: Me neither
.Jeff Commings: Valencia, when you were teaching these kids what were kind of the ability levels for most of them?
Valencia Rice: Well we ranked them on beginning swimmers and higher-level swimmers, so the beginners you could get in, probably go under the water a few times, but the majority of them rated themselves on that level. They were on that level. You can– it was like four out of the whole bunch that would swim — go from end-to-end and actually stroke the water the proper way so what we actually did, we actually took the time out to teach them how to go under the water, the breathing techniques of safety and they went from there and did very well.
Adetokunbo Oredein: And some of the basic first aids of, the first aid part of it and swim not only swim safely but how to save themselves and save others if they had to.
Jeff Commings: So at the end of this program what was I guess the success rate in terms of how many kids were proficient in the water?
Adetokunbo Oredein: We had 99%. We had one little girl that she just got the swimming part, but unless somebody was close to her she just couldn't, here mindset was something may happen but when somebody was close to her she was perfect, but we still had to count her as a non-swimmer because she couldn't do it on her own.
Jeff Commings: Well you know that is still an amazing statistic I mean 99%. Were most of these kids able– that weren't even able to hold their breath underwater were they able to be able to do a length of the pool non-stop?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Yeah, not only they went to the pool, they did the– we have an Olympic size pool. We were trying to be outside to maybe you show you in the background but they did the pool twice without stopping. We had about 19 that went on to the next level and we had three that went into scuba that is very amazing. I went to the next step and I started doing scuba diving without very impressed as we had a person that was African-American. There are very few African-Americans in scuba but they have recruited three and they love it and so doing it I hope that we can maybe get some feedback from them this summer
.Jeff Commings: So to kind of still stick with last year, what was the feedback you guys got you know especially knowing that you had all these kids improve so much?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Basically, it came out to be this year, we had people on a waiting list to sign up and we also end up starting an adult swim class. We didn't think any adults would want to. We had about 12 adults last year that learned how to swim from ages of 40 to 71 and this year we are going to have it again, and just it was very good for the organization to see that the community wanted it, and the some of the older American, African-Americans want to come and swim. We didn't just limit it to African-American but we were really glad that they wanted to come and learn how to swim because usually in a certain age you are kind of like where I am is where I am.
Jeff Commings: And Valencia, being a swimming instructor are you finding it pretty easy to get these people to progress or do they still have these inherent fears of the water and fears of drowning?
Valencia Rice: I definitely get them to progress. They get to a comfort level with me where they are finding themselves having fun. They are laughing and they are trusting me so they are definitely progressing.
Jeff Commings: And Valencia tell me about your swimming background?
Valencia Rice: Well I am from California originally. I started right there. My brother ended up pushing into a pool in the deep end and from there ended up swimming back up. I had no idea how to swim so once I swam back up when I swam to the shallow end I said, “Hmm, this is something that I want to do.” So when I turned 7 and 8 my brother they started putting me in classes and everything like that and I mean I loved it. I have never been scared of the water from that day forward so I moved to Mississippi and went to lifeguarding classes, went to how to teach, how to instruct the class and I went forward from there.
Jeff Commings: Well out in California you know there is never a problem with finding a pool, finding a place to swim are you finding that Jackson is a little bit different in terms of access to pools?
Valencia Rice: When I first got here yes it was, it wasn't until I met the right person at the right time and I got in the right context and I have been in the pool ever since like I have no trouble getting into a pool.
Jeff Commings: And so Adetokunbo, what is your swimming background before you started this program? You know what was your swimming level?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Well technically I started off at Mississippi State University when I was in the 4th grade took the swim class. I took a little bit in high school with football to stay in shape but know how to swim. I know very little about teaching it. I kind of just direct it and put the people in the right places and let them do what they need to do. A lot people done what older people did teaching younger adults how to swim and students how to swim, we kind of want to take over, but I let my lifeguards and my swim instructors do what they do best and I monitor from a distance.
Jeff Commings: So tell us about this 100 Black Men of Jackson Program. I know you have mentioned a little bit of your goals at the beginning of your show, but what is the primary focus?
Adetokunbo Oredein: The primary goal is basically to teach minimal of 125 students from the Jackson public school area how to swim third grade to 12th grade. We want to teach them First Aid a couple of CPR and lifesaving skills, building character in water and how to say “no” to friends when they are around water because most of the time when people get hurt in water is usually with a dare or they jump the fence to get in some pool for the summer and end up getting hurt.
Jeff Commings: This 100 Black Men Program. It is a national organization correct, and Jackson is one of the chapters?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Correct.
Jeff Commings: Are there any other chapters around the country that are expressing any kind of interest in doing what you are doing?
Adetokunbo Oredein: Last year after we sent a write up and the pictures of what we did there are a lot of other organizations they were interested, but we are very unique in the Mississippi area even though we probably one of the smaller chapters, we have a lot more. Our facility has an Olympic-size pool, Tennis court, Basketball court, and none of the other ones actually have what we have. They are trying to implement their program with some of the city, some city areas and some city programs, because it's something that is needed and funding, we really thank our sponsors, no questions asked, they gave us what we need because they see that is needed and it is helping before swimming program started we had 2 drownings that were fatal in our area, but if people — if parents would start near drownings the numbers will be alarming and they will want to put their kids in some kind of program for that safety aspect.
Jeff Commings: Well as somebody who started my swimming career with swimming lessons and progress from there, I have got to congratulate you guys on at least getting your kids to that level and letting them take it from there. Guys thank you so much for joining us today, congratulations on the start of your second summer of this and we look forward to seeing how it progresses in the in the future.
Adetokunbo Oredein: Right, we will definitely from now on follow your program. We didn't know much about it but we will continue following. And we thank you for singling us out and we will continue to follow your program and see how the rest of the world is doing at swimming and how they are improving.
Jeff Commings: All right sounds good, thanks again for joining us.
Adetokunbo Oredein: Thank you so much.
Valencia Rice: Thank you.
Jeff Commings: All right so that is Adetokunbo Oredein and Valencia Rice joining us from Jackson Mississippi. You talk about there learning the swim program and let's go do it for today's edition of the Morning Swim Show. We invite you join in on the conversation, you could either go to our facebook posting or an article about this show on swimmingworld.com. You can also Tweet your thoughts to us on Twitter, our Twitter handle is @swimming world. That will do it for today's show. I am Jeff Commings, thanks for watching.
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