Learning how to swim is a privilege in America, and many economically-disadvantaged children do not have opportunities to acquire this important skill. Eagle Academy in Washington D.C. is working to change this narrative by providing swim lessons to its students with the help of a special guest, Olympian Katie Meili.
Eagle Academy is a public charter school that serves children from PK3 to third grade. Over 90 percent of its students come from poor economic backgrounds, and the school not only seeks to educate these children, but also strives to break the cycle of poverty.
Eagle Academy prioritizes water safety. Black and Brown children drown at higher rates than white children, and Eagle Academy seeks to prevent this by teaching all of its students how to swim. Katie Meili explains the significance of this program, “It’s important to USA Swimming and the USA Swimming Foundation to teach kids how to swim in communities where they might not necessarily have access to swim lessons.”
On September 13th, United States 2016 Olympic swimmer, Katie Meili, made a special appearance at the school to help teach swim lessons. Alongside other swim instructors and lifeguards, Meili started the lessons by preaching the importance of water safety before getting in the water and teaching the students how to float, kick, and blow bubbles, “This opportunity is really special for me since I live in DC. There’s a lot of need for these types of programs in this specific neighborhood in DC, and it’s important that a place like Eagle Academy has a pool and is teaching its students how to swim.”
Not only did Meili teach swim lessons, but she also gave the children the opportunity to learn what it is like to be an elite swimmer. The students were able to pass around Meili’s gold medal from the 2016 Olympic Games, and Meili signed autographs during an art class.
Principal Clifford Owens says the event was an exciting opportunity for Eagle Academy’s students and staff, “The kids had the opportunity to see a gold medal Olympian who is now a Georgetown Law student. Katie let our students see what you can accomplish with hard work and dedication.”
By implementing programs such as this, Eagle Academy is making strides to prevent drownings in underprivileged communities. At Eagle Academy, every student must learn to swim to graduate, and the school has succeeded in teaching approximately 540 student show to swim since their opening in the 2013-2014 school year.