We know that engaging minority groups in aquatics programs is a national issue, but how can we help reduce the drowning and water-related injury statistics among these groups?

I’ll bet some managers wonder if smaller-scale efforts such as program open houses, community meetings or water safety classes and events really make a difference in capturing this challenging audience. Well, we will never know if we don’t try.

Recently, our department secured the approval and commitment from our local public school system to implement a pilot learn-to-swim and water safety program with second graders from five elementary schools in minority-based neighborhoods within Prince George’s County. Though we are unable to reach every second-grade student in the county, we recognize that we are “swimming in the right direction” to incorporate necessary water safety information into the regular school day of the more than 300 participating students.

The goal of this smaller pilot program is to set the stage for a larger initiative to incorporate swimming and water-safety information into the regular education curriculum throughout the county.

That’s an example of a smaller, local initiative, but let’s talk about our international Web-based leaders in the “diversity movement”: Shaun Anderson and Jayson Jackson, co-founders of the Diversity in Aquatics Program. DAP is a nonprofit organization with the goal of decreasing the rate of drowning worldwide by helping to create, promote and support aquatics programs domestically and internationally.

In speaking with Shaun and Jayson, I was really impressed with their acknowledgement of the significant impact politics play in defeating, in their words, the “pandemic” facing minorities, and their lack of skill and experience in and around water. This is a significant issue in minority communities, and one way to ensure proper support, funding and resources to combat it is to keep this issue in the forefront of our nation’s policy and decision-making agendas. And they are doing just that.

In March 2011, Shaun Anderson was recognized in the House of Representatives by Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania for his work with the Diversity in Aquatics Program as well as his work as a USA Swimming diversity consultant. DAP is truly setting a wonderful example for how we, as aquatics professionals, also can serve as advocates for this mission to promote swimming among minority groups.

One of DAP’s upcoming initiatives includes the promotion of International Water Safety Day on May 15, 2012. This inaugural event will serve as the launching pad for an international water safety call to action.

The initiative simply asks industry professionals, community leaders and groups, schools and the like to host a water safety event or to teach a classroom water safety class on that day in 2012. These examples are easy ways to become involved in this international event — all while promoting the overarching theme of safer aquatic experiences for the community, especially minorities. For more information on the International Water Safety Day program, visit internationalwatersafetyday.org.

So, what will be your community’s call to action? And if it is not your own community where there is a need for minority outreach in aquatics, then what will be the call to action to reach out to your neighboring communities in need? Even the smallest of efforts to combat this issue can go a long way. Remember this as you enjoy your next swim. Improving minority participation in aquatics is not just an urban issue — it’s a national issue.

As aquatics professionals, we have the power and resources to reduce these statistics. One lap at a time!