At first glance, David Woodard’s learn-to-swim programs seem commonplace. He uses pop culture references to entertain his students. And he hires young instructors to relate to the growing teens.

What is rare about the classes at Pompey Park Pool, however, are the students: They are not all white. Instead, they are black, Haitian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern. All told, more than half the kids are minorities.

Four years ago, Woodard, aquatics operations supervisor of the Delray Beach, Fla., facility, recognized a lack of learn-to-swim programs in his area. To solve the problem, he partnered his aquatics center with a local elementary school. Today, nearly 90 percent of the fourth and fifth graders in the school today, most of whom are disadvantaged, know how to swim.

What’s more, Woodard has been able to keep the kids in the sport by hiring coaches of all backgrounds, so the students can identify with the staff and believe in their own abilities. For example, Pompey Park Pool’s six-member staff includes three blacks, one of whom is Haitian, two whites and a Native American.

“With a lot of my kids, you have to become a friend first,” Woodard says. “Once they trust you, the sky is the limit in terms of how hard they’ll work for you. We’re like a big family here. You’re instilling something positive into the kids.”


  • In the Minority
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  • One country, one program
  • Partnering with school systems to provide swim lessons.

  • By the Numbers
  • A look at the statistics surrounding minority swimming/ drowning issues.

  • Fiesta del safety
  • How one town took a stand against minority drowning.

  • Taking action
  • 10 ways to build successful minority outreach programs.