ATLANTA — An effort called Safety Around Water is on a mission to help prevent tragedies this summer.
It's a free program that teachers life saving swim skills to children in their own neighborhood pools.
A total of 115 kids under 19-years-old unintentionally drowned in Georgia from 2020-2021, according to the CDC. State DNR data shows there was also a record high number of drownings on Georgia lakes and rivers during that time.
“When they know what to do, if they fall into water accidentally, we can help save their lives," said Megan Benvenuto, executive director of the Northwest Atlanta YMCA.
The YMCA has partnered with community organizations to travel to pools across the metro, teaching kids critical moves that could save their lives.
“I like that you can learn new stuff that we have never learned before," said 9-year-old Mika, who attended a recent session in Norcross. “We were going underwater and coming back up, and then just climbing out on our own."
Benvenuto added that Safety Around Water is unique because it focuses solely on teaching children how to safely exit a pool, even if they're exhausted or overwhelmed.
“Practicing those skills gives them the muscle memory to know what to do if they were in a life endangering situation," she said. “We are going out to different community pools. We're meeting kids where they are. We're giving them the confidence where they need in their local pools.”
The lessons include floating, kicking off the bottom of the pool, making it to the edge, and pushing out of the water.
“I learned like how to float, you stand like this on top of the water," said Mika, as she shot her arms out in the air like a starfish, demonstrating what she'd learned. "When you get tired when you're swimming, you could just lay back and relax."
She's also a member of the A. Worley Brown Boys and Girls Club, who visited the Norcross YMCA for the lesson. It's executive director, Lawrence Mims also spoke on the the significance of the program.
"With recent events going on with a lot of different deaths and scares around swimming, it's very important to be able to have opportunities like this," he said.
While the lessons are intended to be fun and interactive, the children are also taught the importance of the skills they're learning.
"We learn new things and then we're not scared because there's people there for us," said Mika. "So, we don't drown."
For more information, or to find out if your child is eligible, contact your neighborhood YMCA.