2022 Grants Challenge

Youth Drowning Prevention Water Safety Program

The RBAC’s Water Safety Program is a 20-year collaboration with the Pasadena Unified School District to prevent childhood drowning and increase equitable access to aquatic activities through water safety education and swim instruction to all 1,400 third-grade students. Supported by PUSD, Pasadena Education Foundation, LA84 Foundation, and the Pasadena Community Foundation, the RBAC provides 15 swimming lessons, a suit and goggles, workbooks, transportation, and family recreational swim passes at no cost.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena Education Foundation, LA84 Foundation, Pasadena Child Health Foundation

What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

San Gabriel Valley

Other:: Pasadena Unified School District

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Drowning is preventable through educational intervention. According to the CDC, for children ages 1–14, drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional death. Learning to swim saves lives, but access to critical water safety education has too many barriers. There is not equal access to water safety instruction and aquatic facilities. Learning to swim is not a given for most children as many don't have access to backyard pools or private clubs. 79% of children from families earning less than $50,000 per year tend to have low to no swimming ability. All except one PUSD school is a Title 1 school (i.e., families earning less than $50,000 annually) so chances are this is the only exposure a student may have to become water safe. According to the American Red Cross if a child doesn't learn to swim by the 3rd grade, they likely never will. The 3rd-grade water safety program has educated over 25,000 children with hands-on experience learning to swim and critical life-saving skills.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The program addresses the whole child from classroom instruction to wrap-around services. Prior to lessons, each 3rd grade student (including those with disabilities) receives a Water Safety & Nutrition Workbook to review with their teacher, RBAC instructor, and families. This workbook is an interactive tool to learn water safety principles and prepare for in-water instruction. This student session concludes with an opportunity for families to ask questions. Then, students travel to the RBAC weekly for the in-water portion of the program which typically occurs during their designated PE class time. Equipment and swim suits are often a barrier to aquatic participation so students receive a swimsuit, googles, and towel to keep as their own. Over the course of 3-4 weeks, fifteen 45-minute swim lessons (over 11 hours of instruction) to overcome the fear of water and acquire beginner-level swimming skills. Students will participate in lessons to learn life-protecting water safety behaviors and progress through the seven levels of swim skills. Swim instructors use equipment including paddle boards, teaching platforms, dive toys, and flexible "noodles" to support instruction. Students complete their workbooks that reinforce lessons learned after each lesson. The program ends with a family picnic to celebrate the student’s achievement and to create a sense of belonging. To continue this relationship, the students are offered free swim passes to return to the RBAC with their family.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our vision is to prevent childhood drowning and equitable access to aquatics. Learning to swim saves lives, yet, 66% of Asian Americans, 64% of African Americans, and 45% of Hispanic/Latinx have no or low swimming ability. These communities need direct intervention and to experience a sense of belonging at pools, rivers, and the ocean. This program strives to help children overcome the fear of water and build self-confidence in their aquatic abilities. The specific goals of the program include student demonstration of at least eight ways to be water safe and those frightened of the water will overcome that fear. Other goals include gaining sufficient skills to move up in skill levels and to be able to dive from the edge of the pool and/or attempt jumps from a diving board. An important outcome is also that families will visit the RBAC using the Family Swim Pass provided and participants will report that they can participate as a member of an aquatic team in the future if they desire.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The impact of the program is measured by quantitative data (e.g., attendance records, pre- and post-test results, and completion of Water Safety/Nutrition Workbooks) and qualitative data such as reports from classroom teachers and anecdotal stories from families. Pre-tests indicate that 80% of third-grade students in PUSD do not know how to swim. The post-test and program results include: • 80% of students have perfect attendance • 99% of students who were extremely fearful in the pretest overcome their fear • 95% of students gain sufficient skills to move up at least one swim skill level with 75% moving up at least two levels • 80% of students are able to dive from the edge of the pool and/or jump from a diving board • 75% of students are able to participate in beginning water polo • 100% of students complete a program evaluation • 30% of families revisit the RBAC using the Family Swim Pass • 80% report that they have the ability to participate as a member of an aquatic team

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,400

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

The Pasade Unified School District’s administrators dedicate time and staffing to make the program a success. Teachers assist with the in-classroom water safety education and supervision during transportation. The superintendent, Brian McDold, presents at our annual Water Safety Awareness Month press conference hosted each May on intertiol drowning prevention day. Pasade Education Foundation facilitates PUSD transportation. We have additiol funding partnerships: The LA84 Foundation, a founding partner of the RBAC, provides funding for operatiol support which is dedicated to staffing and equipment costs. Pasade Child Health Foundation provides funding to help reduce the disparity in aquatic education access that adversely impacts the health and safety of PUSD students.