NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Swimming lessons are turning around low academic scores at one Norfolk school. The lessons are part of a new program started by the Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authority.
The program gives students from Tidewater Park Elementary free swimming lessons before school at the Southside Aquatics Center in Norfolk. NRHA started the program to teach the students a new skill, and hopefully turn their low academic scores around.
“It’s a great partnership between Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authoring, Norfolk Public Schools, and the City of Norfolk,” said Lucy Major, Resource Development Administrator with NRHA. “Everyone is kind of buying into the program. It’s amazing.”
The program appears to be working. Shemieka Sutton, a swimming instructor with the program, says the kids are becoming more confident in their swimming skills.
“They are also more encouraged about themselves when they feel more comfortable in the water,” said Sutton.
The kids aren’t just becoming better swimmers. Administrators at Tidewater Park Elementary say they are also becoming better students.
“It’s helping their minds, it’s helping them have a good spirit about learning and education,” said Valencia Moore, Assistant Principal at Tidewater Park Elementary .
“The students are making better grades in school as a result of this experience,”said L’Tanya Simmons, Deputy Superintendent for Norfolk Public Schools.
NRHA also hopes to keep these kids from becoming a sad statistic. Studies show African-American children are three times more than likely to drown than white students.
“The fact that we have kids drowning because they don’t have the opportunity to learn how to swim is very unfortunate. That’s why programs like this are just so important, and vital to our community,” said Moore.
The kids are also learning values they can use outside the classroom.
“Here you have to show teamwork, like if someone doesn’t get it you have to help them,” said Nacoria Knox, a student at Tidewater Park Elementary. “When I go in class I would do the same to help my peers in class so they can be good things too.”
NRHA started the swimming program last year. This is the second group of kids to go through the swim lessons. In the coming months, they hope to add an after school swim program for Tidewater Park Elementary.