As part of the Y’s commitment to reduce drowning rates and keep kids safe in and around the water, the Muskegon YMCA is increasing access to swim instruction and water safety for children from underserved communities in the Muskegon area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years old. In ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher than the national average, according to a USA Swimming study. Additionally, 64 percent of African-American children, 45 percent of latino children, and 40 percent of Caucasian children have no or low swimming ability.

“Educating children on how to be safe around water is just as important as teaching them to look both ways before they cross the street,” says Andi Switzer, Youth Program Director at the Muskegon Y. “The Y teaches children of all ages and backgrounds that water should be fun, not feared, and this practice not only saves lives, it builds confidence.”

The Y believes this is especially true following 2020’s COVID-19 shutdowns. In a typical year, the Muskegon Y teaches 1,100 3rd graders in their Safety Around Water program—this decreased to 200 students in 2020. “We know there are children in our community who are now more at risk due to the need to maintain social distancing in 2020 and we want to make every effort we can to reach those kids this year,” says Switzer. In order to fill this gap, the Muskegon Y is providing their Safety Around Water program to 4th graders who were unable to participate in the program as a result of COVID. 

The Muskegon Y has been a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety in the community for more than 20 years. The Y continues to help youth and adults experience the joy and benefits of swimming, so they can be healthy, confident and secure in the water. There are a variety of programs offered, including Safety Around Water, SPLASH water safety lessons for families, and the Muskegon Y Swim Team. 

In addition to learning lifesaving water safety skills, children can increase their physical activity by swimming. Swimming motivates children to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. It also teaches life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, so that children can learn how to work well with teammates and coaches and how to deal with winning and losing—skills that last a lifetime. 

To learn more about the Muskegon Y’s swim programs, please contact Andi Switzer at 231.722.9622 x204 or