In Minnesota, a state lovingly referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the importance of water safety cannot be understated. It is here that Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, with his relentless drive and passion, has emerged as a beacon of change for water safety initiatives with the understanding that water competency should be a right, not a privilege.
Water is inviting, yet it poses a danger when not approached with the necessary skills and caution. Rooted in personal experiences and fueled by the collective needs of his community, Mayor Carter’s initiatives and proposed programs aim to ensure that every child, regardless of socioeconomic background, gains access to essential swimming lessons.
We are proud to announce our September Water Safety Champion of The Month, Mayor Melvin Carter.
Growing Up Surrounded by Water
Growing up, Mayor Carter, along with his siblings and friends, would often be found diving and swimming for hours at their local community center. It wasn’t just about fun; it was about community and culture. But today, many kids miss formal swimming lessons, largely due to the prohibitive costs. “Our youth deserve every opportunity to be successful, which involves eliminating barriers to learning,” he states.
This gap in access underscores why water safety has become a crucial issue for local governments.
The Need for Local Governments to Prioritize Water Safety
Water safety is paramount. Mayor Carter is steadfast in his belief that the local government’s primary role is to ensure the safety and well-being of its residents. When a study from the National Institute of Health highlighted that access to swimming lessons could nearly eradicate the chances of youth drowning, it became clear that more had to be done. By making swimming lessons free, not only can the safety of children be ensured, but it also addresses the socioeconomic disparities prevalent in many communities.
Proposing Free Swim Lessons for Children
Taking inspiration from the success of a previous initiative that eliminated participation fees for youth sports, Mayor Carter is proposing a significant $250,000 investment from the American Rescue Plan to fund free swimming lessons in city-owned pools. This ambitious initiative aims to cater to 2,500 youth under the age of 10 and instill a strong foundation of water safety and competency.
Although this initiative is still in its proposal phase, Mayor Carter has a powerful vision. The existing infrastructure, with instructors recruited from local high schools and classes held at sought-after locations like the Como Park Regional Pool and Highland Park Aquatic Center, lays a promising groundwork for the initiative.
Once the plan gains more clarity, a robust outreach effort involving the Parks and Recreation Department and local partners will take the front seat.
Water Competency For All
Equity and inclusivity are at the heart of the proposed plan. “When we say all children ages 10 and younger, we mean all children,” declares Mayor Carter. The Aquatics teams are equipped to accommodate youth of all abilities, ensuring that everyone has access to these life-saving lessons.
The Path Ahead
While Mayor Carter is excited about the existing projects like lifeguard recruitment and safety outreach, he believes the community has a pivotal role to play. By becoming lifeguards or vocally supporting policies that further water safety, they can significantly impact these initiatives.
For local government leaders elsewhere, Mayor Carter’s message is simple yet impactful: sometimes, the most straightforward solutions can be the most effective. By removing barriers, such as cost, and fostering partnerships with schools and organizations, a ripple effect can be created, making communities safer and more inclusive.
Thank You For Making A Difference In Water Safety!
Water Safety Champion of the Month, Mayor Melvin Carter, and his dedication to water safety, combined with a commitment to equity, makes him an exemplar for local governments everywhere. In his eyes, water safety isn’t just about preventing accidents; it’s about building communities where every child, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to thrive.
Thank you, your honor, for being a Water Safety Champion!
If you are making a difference in water safety and drowning prevention or know someone who has, we want to hear your story.
Please take a moment to share the story on our website for a chance to be nationally recognized as a Water Safety Champion.