Ali Center Launches Ali Stingrays Swimmer Scholar Program

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Photo Courtesy: Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center announced the creation of the Ali Stingrays Swimmer Scholar Program Wednesday, a year-round competitive USA Swimming club that builds on an existing pilot program.

Last October, the Ali Center founded a pilot program providing support for 15 students at W.E.B. DuBois Academy middle school and 10 at Central High School, Ali’s alma mater. Both schools are located in the primarily black West End of Louisville, Kentucky. Swimmers in that program had little to no swimming experience. The Ali Center is partnering with Trident Swim Foundation in an effort receiving financial support from ESPN, the Gheens Foundation and other entities.

The effort is two-fold: To ensure basic swim safety and also allow those engaged by their taste of the sport the opportunity to pursue it at the highest level. The safety aspect is both urgent – the drowning risk for black children ages 5-14 is three times higher than of their white counterparts, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and generational, with a USA Swimming Foundation study finding that children whose parents don’t know how to swim have just a 13 percent chance of learning.

“Many facets of the community often turn their backs on these kids with regard to swimming, as well as not understanding the required love to teach it and the energy it requires to grow the sport,” Ali Stingrays Coach T.J. Lechner said in a press release. “I want to be a part of a program that turns all of this around and starts helping students to learn. Love and passion are the foundations to teaching anyone anything, and I know that I have that love and passion to help these kids grow as students and swimmers — but even more importantly, to grow as people.”

The Ali Stingrays are designed to extend beyond the pool, with the Swimmer Scholar Program incorporated into the center’s Creating Our Future Program, which focuses on students’ “character education” on the basis of Ali’s six core principles: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, spirituality and giving.

“Muhammad Ali, like all athletes, recognized that dedication and self-confidence are key foundational elements to attaining success not just in one’s career, but in life,” said Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center. “So what is most exciting to us about the Ali Stingrays Swimmer Scholar Program is that we have a stake in student’s academic achievement and in building their confidence for when they begin thinking about applying to top tier colleges. Fostering high academic achievement goals are critical for communities to impact not just this generation of students, but generations to come.”

“We are passionate about teaching socio-economically disadvantaged children the safety, health benefits and fun of competitive swimming, while simultaneously improving their performance in school and beyond,” said Kristin Gary, co-founder of Trident Swim Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with the Muhammad Ali Center and to incorporate their Character Building program into our curriculum. Our partnership with MAC is an exciting opportunity for us to bring the Swimmer Scholar program to children from Central High School and Louisville’s historic West End community.”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Ginny King

    Ali is still making a difference. Well done Louisville!