The Muhammad Ali Center and Trident Swim Foundation announced the launch of the Ali Stingrays Swimmer Scholar Program on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky.
The program, which provides college readiness support and competitive swimming skills for students of color, has been running a pilot program since October, and it has already shown student progress and community impact.
After-school academic support and competitive swim instruction is being provided at Central High School—Muhammad Ali’s alma mater—with the ultimate goal of preparing to students to attend and graduate from top colleges and learn swimming skills as a means to reverse the statistics surrounding drowning rates in African American communities.
A major component of the program is the establishment of a year-round competitive swim USA Swimming team. The swimmer scholar program has supported 10 Central High School students and 15 W.E.B. DuBois Academy middle school students during its pilot year, all of whom had little or no swimming ability. The program is supported by ESPN, Inc., and also receives funding from the Gheens Foundation.
According to a recent study done by the University of Memphis and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 64% of African-American have no/low swimming ability.
“Many facets of the community often turn their backs on these kids with regard to swimming, as well as not understanding the required love to teach it and the energy it requires to grow the sport,” Ali Stingrays coach T.J. Lechner said in a press release. “I want to be a part of a program that turns all of this around and starts helping students to learn.
“Love and passion are the foundations to teaching anyone anything, and I know that I have that love and passion to help these kids grow as students and swimmers—but even more importantly, to grow as people.”
You can check out the full press release here.