“A multi-tasking role model and advocate who carries a life-saving message and the imperative of diversity into regions and disciplines never before imagined …” Tha ’s how Shaun Anderson was described in front of the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D - Pa.) was recognizing him for his efforts to address the global drowning epidemic. In 2008 Anderson co-founded the nonprofit Diversity in Aquatics, and that’s just the beginning.
In 2009 he was hired by USA Swimming as a diversity consultant, responsible for developing and implementing programs for underserved communities. He is also a faculty member in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science at Norfolk State University.
At the Diversity Aquatics Network, Anderson’s “partner-in-prevention” is Jayson Jackson. The two met as student athletes at Pennsylvania State University, where Anderson was a swimmer and ran track. He graduated in 2001 and also holds an MBA from California State University, Long Beach.
Anderson, 33, started swimming very young, and says it was meeting Wanda Butts, a Toledo, Ohio woman who lost her son to drowning, that was one impetus for Diversity in Aquatics. To honor her son’s memory, Butts startedThe Josh Project a nonprofit organization that works to promote water safety and swim lessons among local minority communities.
Both organizations provide information and education to address the needs and concerns of minority parents and help them get their children in swim lessons. Like The Josh Project, Diversity in Aquatics started small, but thanks to the power of social networking and online communication, it is now viewed in more than 140 countries.
To that end, on May 15, Diversity in Aquatics will launch the first International Water Safety Day. The goal is to raise awareness about the need for water safety and address the fact that drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death worldwide, as indicated by the World Health Organization.
“We’ve started to realize it is so much bigger than just swimming,” Anderson says.