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Watch now: AfroSoc organizes youth swim clinics at Illinois Wesleyan

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Three free swim clinics will be held at Illinois Wesleyan this month, organized by Bloomington-Normal’s Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus.

BLOOMINGTON — Three free swim clinics will be held at Illinois Wesleyan this month, organized by Bloomington-Normal’s Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus.

The Shirk Center at Illinois Wesleyan will host the clinics 5-6:15 p.m. Oct. 15 and 2:30-4:30 p.m. Oct. 16 and 17.

Children are encouraged to attend all three clinics if possible so they can progress in overcoming fear of water, learn foundational swim techniques and continue to gain confidence in the water.

Sonny Garcia, co-chair of the local caucus, said these clinics came about in response to feedback AfroSoc received at a July 3 block party.

At that event, the group conducted a raffle to give away 20 season passes to local pools. In talking with families about access to pools, caucus member Briante Zinnermon was inspired to work with the community to ensure kids growing up on the westside of Bloomington know how to swim.

Studies have shown that at every age Black children are more likely to die from an accidental drowning than a white child, according to USA Swimming.

“I think the issue is more about income and resources in the areas families live in. This reason alone I feel makes this free clinic so valuable to the community,” Zinnermon said, noting USA Swimming has also found 64% of Black children have low or no swimming ability.

Garcia said this is a pilot program and they are hoping to continue to build upon this first clinic to meet the community's needs and “help out as many kids as we can.”

“It’s basic survival skills and everyone should have access to this,” he said. For many, it’s not about access to lessons - “it’s more of a cultural thing. There are people in the African-American community that are scared of water … because they were never around it.”

He said shifting that culture and mindset is important because “you never know when you’re going to be in the water so it’s a good skill to have.”

Children of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to participate in the free clinics.

Garcia said they are still seeking volunteers to help lead clinics, especially certified swim instructors.

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.

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