Valley sports club helping more Black kids learn to swim

ECHO Aquatics waived the swim lesson fee for more than 45 children last year. Most were kids of color.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Since 2019, ECHO Aquatics has been providing swim lessons and aquatic sports clubs for marginalized communities.

According to the CDC, drowning rates for Black people aged 5-19 years are five times higher than those among white people in the same age group.

The goal, ECHO says, is to save lives by teaching communities of color to swim and have access to aquatics.

"Sports should reflect the population of the school, so if the population of your school has 7% white kids and 50% of your aquatics is white, there is a mismatch, says Jennifer Lopez.

Lopez feels passionate about her mission and says the club has built a tight-knit community.

The support was evident when one boy teammate was shot last November.

"He luckily survived but our kids showed up in every way possible - from donating blood to fundraising money. And it goes beyond the pool deck once you start having those things happen, it's a real team."

Lopez says ECHO waived the swim lesson fee for more than 45 children last year. Most were kids of color.

"We are contributing in a really practical way. Fresno is really hot and swimming is great exercise, great for mental health and it is also a great way to cool off," says Shantay R. Davies-Balch, CEO at BLACK Wellness & Prosperity Center.

Davies says the inaffordability of lessons, lack of access to pools, and systematic racism all play a role in people of color not knowing how to swim.

"From a personal background I can say I actually don't know how to swim myself and I am afraid of the water so I really invested in my kids learning how to swim."

ECHO Aquatics hosts their swimming lessons and water sports at McLane High School in Fresno.

They welcome anyone who is interested in making a splash.

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