Summer vacation is in full swing for south Georgia students. For many that means time in the pool.
15 year-old Demontray Porter knows the importance of learning how to swim. "if you're in a life or death situation, it's in your hands really. Either you're in the water or you got to get somebody to help. They will teach you how to tread water so you won't drown," Porter said.
Porter knew how to swim before he came to the National Youth Sports Program at Albany State. But three weeks into the program, he says he's already much better. "When I was over here I kind of knew how to do most stuff, but they taught me how to be a better swimmer."
More than 400 children are attending this summer program, which provides physical and educational activities to 9 to 15-year olds. And organizers say one of the most important activities is swimming.
"This is most important because my opinion about swimming, once a child or an adult doesn't have any bottom like we're standing on now, and they panic," Jesse Massey said. The majority of these children are beginners. Instructors let the kids get comfortable with the water first, then progress into breathing, kicking and gliding. And the lifeguards use real life stories to stress the importance of water safety.
"We try to talk to them everyday about drowning prevention at the beginning of the program, in each session and at the end," said Water safety instructor Korrey Hammond. "And if something happens on the news, we sit and we discuss it on a regular basis everyday. This is serious. This is not only recreational, but it can save your life. And someone else eventually."
And instructors urge parents to teach their children early on, about water safety for many reasons.
"If parents would teach their kids at an early age to get comfortable with water and overcome that fear, it's lifelong learning. It prevents obesity and you can actually get a career out of it. That's how I got my first job, really," Hammond said.
But whether swimming turns into a career or is just for fun, learning the basics can help save lives.