Atahualpa Rosas, a Waco local, spent the day before his graduation with a couple of friends playing volleyball on a beach. Capturing the last moments of high school with some friends at Lake Waco seemed like a fun, relaxing thing to do right after graduation rehearsal on that Friday afternoon. However, the promising senior graduating at the top ten percent of his class with a scholarship to Baylor University was pulled out from the depths of Lake Waco the next morning. Many tragic stories of people drowning in Waco have been told one too many times, before and since this incident in June of 2011 (Burnett and Bruce). The problem is that with Waco being surrounded by many bodies of water including Lake Waco, the Brazos River, and much more, there are not enough learn to swim programs around for people to take advantage of to obtain this important skill. I propose that Baylor University creates a free learn to swim program for children and adults of all ages to spread water safety awareness, teach the essential life skill of swimming, and further engage with the community.

The first step in taking action for drowning prevention begins with water safety awareness. Without the proper education over water safety, both parents and children are vulnerable to the dangers of drowning. Many people may believe that sites with large bodies of water are well equipped with lifeguards, buoys, and life jackets so it is not necessary to have a parent tag along or bring their own equipment. However, even with those resources, it is still very much possible for someone to fall victim to the depths of the water. With plenty of people to look after, lifeguards may not be able to catch one person among the sea of many, fall into danger. In fact, because there are so many people, it is easy for someone to climb over a small child in order to stay afloat or push someone aside to lose their footing on the ground.

There are also many cases where lifeguards, buoys, and life jackets are not available. Plenty of people may think that they will be OK as long as their feet touch the ground, however, the combination of the murky water and weak swimming skills often trick a person into thinking it is OK to be out so far from the shoreline. In fact, according to Dr. Keith of The Alternative Doctor, "66% of victims are good swimmers… Typically, when a victim realizes that they cannot keep their head above water, they tend to panic. This leads to the classic "surface struggle," where they flounder and thrash in the upright posture, out of control." If experienced swimmers struggle with staying afloat, a weaker swimmer will definitely be in more trouble. The unfortunate truth that many fail to realize is that no person is ever fully water-safe.

If Baylor University were to provide more information involving the statistics of drowning-related deaths, who it impacts, and how to prevent it within the community, it will benefit people of all ages to seek out the opportunity to educate themselves over how to be safer around large bodies of water. With the student writers in Baylor writing about the importance of water safety and gathering up volunteers to talk about it within the Waco community, it can become a major catalyst that helps motivate parents to enroll their child in a swimming class or even take one themselves. In addition, if Baylor were to provide a water safety course to its students, they could also take the opportunity to go to the Student Life Center and learn how to swim there. In fact, they can even take some water safety tips back home all across the nation and beyond depending on where they live. Beginning with small steps of awareness leads to bigger strides in action.

Learning how to swim is crucial for everyone to know no matter how old someone is. According to the World Health Organization, "in 2015, injuries accounted for over 9% of total global mortality. Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death…" proving that learning how to swim an essential life skill. Whether through playing near large bodies of water, to fighting for your life, kids and adults of all ages should have the basic skill to prevent further casualties. According to USA Swimming's Make a Splash Foundation, "79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little-to-no swimming ability." Waco has a residence that may not be in an economically stable place that is also diverse with minority groups. According to Diversity Data, a huge majority of Waco's residents are Caucasian, Hispanic, or African-American. "Research shows 64% of African-American, 45% of Hispanic/Latino, and 40% of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability" (Make A Splash Foundation), with that being said, most people may not know how to swim especially if they are not able to afford lessons at the local YMCA. Waco holds an alarming proportion of those who are minorities that are economically disadvantaged.

Money should never be a barrier between people learning essential survival skills and basic necessities. But the unfortunate truth is that money is a huge barrier to overcome. Basic necessities are the first priority when it comes to more economically disadvantaged areas, so time and money are not often put into programs for extracurriculars or learning to swim programs like this. If Baylor were to begin a free learn to swim program for college students and kids, then perhaps people could come over during weekends to get swimming lessons from college students who are skilled through the swim team, triathlon team, or experienced volunteers. Parents would have one less thing to worry about when it comes to money, and therefore more at ease knowing that their child is equipped with safety skills when around water. From there, they could practice around local pools or even the YMCA from time to time. The goal of swimming lessons is to provide children and adults with enough skills to be safe in the water and prepare them with the tools to stay afloat in any given situation. Everyone should have a better opportunity in learning how to swim, especially more in-depth in a safe environment with lifeguards and older kids around to watch over them. That way, it would strongly lower the casualty rate of those who fall victim to drowning.

By Baylor creating a learn to swim program, the University will be able to engage more with the community. Younger kids could have an opportunity to interact with older kids involved in a high level of education and have a role model that motivates them to continue working hard through their education. The kids and college students could even make a new friend. It would also encourage parents to learn how to swim as well and it gives families an opportunity to bond with their children more and plan those vacations along water sites. It would be very beneficial for the community if Baylor were to be more interactive with them. Instead of being two separate worlds of Waco, they will become one instead. That way, people can connect more with one another on and off campus. The swimming program would especially help those in poverty or those who need help with someone taking their kids out to have fun while the parents go to work. With a learning to swim program, the parents' hearts will be more at ease when their kids are around water. Perhaps parents would have another reason to put smiles on their children's faces too.

People's concerns may stem from having people come from outside of Baylor which may create an unsafe environment, however, many families have fun events at the SLC with children already. In addition, many families come to visit throughout the week to see the campus or take their kids out to eat in the dining halls. With Baylor's learn how to swim program, many more kids can come over and join in on the fun. Not only would it help kids be exposed to the importance of swimming, but it gives them a first-hand exposure of what college may look like along with what strong Christian values they hold. From the interaction with those on campus, students are given more insight into what a high level of education looks like. Baylor's purpose involves "[striving] to produce individuals who use their freedom to enrich their own lives and to contribute to the well-being of society," (Purpose of Baylor University) and instead of waiting for students to graduate to make a difference and impact on society, the University could start by caring for the community it is already in.

As a private Christian community that is passionate about their service to others in glorifying God, the Waco community could very much benefit in seeing God's work first hand through Baylor's students. From there, a stronger Christian community could be built and tradition of Baylor's strong development in faith will not only be within the University but within the city and beyond. That way, through growing up with this exposure, they can grow up and further inspire the upcoming generations in gaining a better education and a huge heart for those in need.

With the proposal of Baylor creating a free learn to swim program, people like Atahualpa Rosas could be saved from another drowning incident. It is unfortunate that money stands between people's basic necessities and crucial life skills. Not only is this a local problem, but there are many more developing nations in the world who lack even more resources and who do not have opportunities to even learn the basic skill of surviving in water. While Waco has such a prestigious private Christian University, it would truly be a loss in an opportunity to carry out its purpose in service for others if they were not able to utilize its many resources as a way to help improve its local community. There is no reason why people should wait till graduating in coming out to the "real world" in order to further carry out its mission. It begins by submitting this proposal and gathering a willing amount of students who are passionate about making a difference in the world. It is not about "waiting" because right now, is the reality, it is the real world and the world does not wait for people to be "ready" before problems begin to arise.

Many people have already lost their lives in the Waco community, and that is only a small handful compared to the rest of the world. But by taking the first step in establishing a program in a small city like Waco, it could provide hope for others in the world and further motivate others to create a program like this that started with something Baylor University pushed forward, and it can save so many more people's lives and also honor those who have lost loved ones to tragic accidents that involved drowning. Instead of drowning in water, Baylor will open its arms and drown people with its love and passion for service.

Citation:

"Teen Presumed Dead in Possible Drowning on Lake Waco.": www.kxxv.com/story/14836214/teen-drowns-in-lake-waco

Diversity Data - Diversitydata.org - Data for Diverse and Equitable Metropolitan Areas: diversitydata.org/Data/Profiles/Show.aspx?loc=1420

"Drowning." World Health Organization, World Health Organization: www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drowning

"Two Thirds of People Who Drown Are Strong Swimmers.": alternative-doctor.com/news-stuff/two-thirds-of-people-who-drown-are-strong-swimmer/

"Purpose of Baylor University.": www.baylor.edu/student_policies/index.php?id=22175

Make a Splash Foundation: https://www.usaswimmingfoundation.org/home/make-a-...