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Mayor Harrell Announces New Drowning Prevention and Youth Aquatics Initiative, Swim Seattle 

Today, Mayor Harrell together with Seattle Parks and Recreation, and recreation, child safety, and drowning-prevention partners, announced a new drowning-prevention and youth aquatics initiative, Swim Seattle 

Swim Seattle is a new initiative that will combine the efforts of YMCA, Public Health—Seattle & King County, Associated Recreation Council, Washington State Parks, No More Under, Seattle Children’s, and the University of Washington to remove barriers to learning to swim and to eradicate disproportionate drownings among youth of color.  

In 2023, Swim Seattle will begin as a pilot by providing a year of free lessons to a cohort of 250 youth, prioritizing access to those who cannot afford lessons, while also providing workshops to support children and their families in becoming comfortable swimmers and water safe.  

“Teaching children how to swim and be safe around water is an important lesson that will serve them for years to come,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “For far too long, lack of access to swim lessons and water safety education has put children and families of color at a disproportionate risk of drowning. Swim Seattle will address these disparities by offering free lessons to the children who need them most, removing the barriers that have prevented many youth and families from accessing swim lessons and offering culturally responsive workshops so they have the tools they need to stay safe in and around the water. Programs like this will help every child, from every neighborhood, access opportunities to learn and grow, promising a safer future for our entire city.” 

Swim Seattle is a promise that, together with our partners, and any interested investor to come, the Department of Parks and Recreation will not stop until we can eradicate the barriers to learning to swim and erase the needless risk and harm to our children. While we are starting small, with phased and implemented pilot programs to study effective outcomes, we know a program like Swim Seattle cannot wait, and drowning disparity data amongst white children and children of color implores us to act now. Swimming is an essential life skill that must be taught to all children, and Swim Seattle will ensure that all those living in a city surrounded by water can enjoy that water safely,” said AP Diaz, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent. 

“Water safety is a critical part of childhood development,” said Loria Yeadon, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Seattle. “Unfortunately, many historical and generational barriers prevent children (especially children of color) from accessing swimming lessons, including cultural barriers, systemic inequalities, and lack of transportation. We still feel the effects of those barriers today. At the Y, we are breaking barriers to swim safety and fun by offering programs designed to make swim lessons accessible, affordable, and culturally responsive. Water safety is for all and our collective responsibility, and we are excited to join the Swim Seattle collaboration to ensure that every child learns how to swim and stay safe around the water.” 

“Water safety is a fundamental life skill that every child should have the opportunity to learn. Swim Seattle is doing its part to ensure that children in our community have access to quality swim lessons, regardless of their financial circumstances. By working together, we can ensure that every child has the chance to swim safely and confidently in our state’s beautiful bodies of water,” said Chezik Tsunoda, Executive Director of No More Under.  

“We all have some connection to the dangers of drowning. And we all can help improve this devastating problem. Numbers show that water safety is a critical public health and public safety issue. Swim Seattle invests in our children’s futures and will save lives in the long run,” said Tony Gomez, Manager of Injury Prevention for Public Health-Seattle & King County and one of the co-leads for the Washington State Drowning Prevention Network.

Families can sign up for the City’s swim class programming by calling your local pool.

As part of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s commitment to equitable and accessible programming, summer swim registration for indoor pools will open for current scholarship eligible participants on 5/16/23. Registration will open for the general public on 5/23/23. More information here.

Please follow our blog and social media channels for more information on upcoming Swim Seattle events and activities (workshops, etc.).