New city program teaches at-risk kids to swim for free

City swimming pool
City swimming pool

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) –  Summer is just around the corner but one group of Albuquerque kids got a head start, spending their spring break learning an important life skill. It’s part of the city partnership to cut down on the states second leading cause of death for kids.

“These swimming lessons really helped me out,” said student Alonzo Ceniceros.

Now, Ceniceros has a new take on the deep end.

“I would always be scared that I was going to drown,” he said. “But now…I know how to swim. It’s easier and now I’m confident I can be swimming in the deeper parts without drowning.”

Alonzo just completed a week long swimming class designed to sharpen safety skills in and around the water.

“We’re really confident that, in this one week we can teach them, not only to be comfortable in the water, but to be proficient,” said Albuquerque Aquatics Division Manager Brandon Gibson.

Gibson says drowning is the second leading cause of death for kids in New Mexico.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases where kids have gotten swept away in the Rio Grande. There are a lot of at-home drownings, a lot of backyard, pool drownings,” said Gibson.

He says many kids don’t have access to swim lessons or even public pools, but the city wants to change that.

“We believe it’s very important every child learn how to swim,” said Gibson.

That’s why it partnered with Herman Sanchez Community Center to offer a free swim class to low-income and at-risk youth.

“A lot of these kids don’t know swimming or don’t know the potential hazards that come with it,” Gibson said.

Instructors like city lifeguard Daniel Hernandez say it’s rewarding to watch them grow.

“There so genuine and just new to everything so, it’s nice to see them smile for the first time when we play Marco Polo or something,” said Hernandez.

For kids like Alonzo, learning translates to a good time and a big boost in confidence.

Gibson says the program was a success with 45 kids in attendance. He says, from here, they hope to expand.

Swim lessons are regularly $25 dollars a child, but the city also has a  program to get kids in free. You can find details, here.