Teen twins start organization to help teach Black and brown children to swim

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children in America, especially among Black children.

Matt Trapani and Naomi Yané

Jul 29, 2023, 2:22 AM

Updated 320 days ago

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A brother and sister duo from Essex County is on a mission to decrease grim swimming statistics for Black and brown children by offering them free swimming lessons.
Twins Tyna and Tyler Davis have been swimming since they were babies and say being in the water is second nature for them. But this is not the case for every child. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children in America, especially among Black children. The twins say they have taken it upon themselves to teach kids how to swim.
The 17-year-old twins say they have been swimming competitively since they were 8 years old.
“For the longest time, swimming has been what I do with my life,” says Tyna.
“For about six or seven years we’ve been swimming with this team here, the Dolphins. Me and Tyna both go to the same school, Montclair Kimberley Academy, so we swim there,” says Tyler.
Seeing the drowning statistics for Black and brown children inspired them to create WE SWIM. According to the American Red Cross, Black children ages 5 to 19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5 and a half times higher than those of white children in the same age range.
“I kept thinking about it. Those kids like my age who don’t know how to swim, and it was like, ‘Can I do anything to prevent that?’” says Tyna.
Wendy Quashie’s daughter Naylah is in the class. She says she hopes to prevent another tragedy in her family.
“I never really was in the water like that because I had a fear of the water,” she says. “It’s good to do it now as a child because you don’t want the kids to drown. You want them to be able to learn to swim. I had a sister, she drowned, so it’s important to swim.”
WE SWIM offers free classes three times a week for three weeks in the summer. The lessons are for children ages 8-12 who can’t afford lessons. The kids also get a swim cap, goggles, a towel and a mesh bag to take with them to class.
But the organization was also in need of instructors and a pool. The twins reached out to the place where they learned to swim – the Montclair YMCA.
“When they came to us, they said, ‘We have an idea. We want to help raise funds. We’ll raise the money on our own, would you be willing to give us some pool time, help us get the instructors and offer swim lessons to children in Bloomfield that possibly have not had the chance to learn how to swim?’” says Buddy Evans, president and CEO of the Montclair YMCA.
Tyna and Tyler were also able to get the Board of Education on board. They offered the bus from Bloomfield to Montclair. The twins say they hope to continue offering free classes every summer.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help fundraise for WE SWIM.


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