Free swim program offered to children in Opa-locka, Liberty City

600 children participate in summer program

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – Six hundred children in Opa-locka and Liberty City are learning to swim for free at Shebondy Park and Bannerman Pool.

PSWAP's Learning to Swim program started in 2016 and has 600 children registered for a six-week swimming program, according to Bridget McKinney, the coordinator of the Learning to Swim program. 

"Because we can educate our parents, train our kids and inform them on how to be safe in and around water, this is so important," McKinney said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida is the leading state in unintentional child drownings with children under the age of 4.

"If you turn your back on an infant or a child for three to five seconds, that's all it takes," McKinney said.

Just Monday, a 2-year-old drowned at a Fourth of July party in Pines Village. That is the second child drowning in the last week.

Amongst the new swimmers is former LA Rams wide receiver and Miami Gardens native Stedman Bailey. Bailey and other athletes have dedicated time to assist with swimming lessons.

"Whether they're in the pool or without supervision, learning how to swim, they'll be safe," Bailey said.

The program includes free CPR training for parents. Jelani and his father, Harold Barnwell, are two of the participants. While Jelani learns to swim, Barnwell learns how to keep his son safe around water.

"He loves water," Barnwell said. "And for a kid to love water like that and don't have the skill to survive in case he does find himself where he can't get out of a situation, I felt this was an awesome program."

Jelani had some tips on staying safe in water.

"If you panic, you might drown," he said. "So you have to use one of the techniques from swimming."