LeBron James' I Promise School & Olympian Simone Manuel Are Teaching Kids How to Swim

LeBron James' commitment to helping at-risk kids has evolved into teaching them an important life skill. He recently launched a summer swimming program in collaboration with Olympic medalist Simone Manuel. It turns out, kids learned more than just how to swim.

LeBron James has taken further steps to empower children in his “I Promise” School. In collaboration with Olympian Simone Manuel, the school launched a summer program to teach its students how to swim.

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

Last week, incoming fourth and fifth-grade kids from the Akron school were immersed in a week-long training program to equip them with the basics of the life skill under the leadership of no less than Olympic gold medalist Manuel. 

Manuel’s participation in the program included daily videos she recorded that were shown to the children before the start of their training sessions.

The 22-year-old swimmer visited the institution in March to launch the initiative. She is particularly invested believing swimming is not just a sport but a lifesaving skill. 

Manuel’s participation in the program included daily videos she recorded that were shown to the children before the start of their training sessions. She’s thrilled to be a part of most of these kids’ first venture into the water. 

“It's really exciting knowing that this is the first time that these children are getting in the pool and playing in the water and getting their first pair of goggles and [maybe] swimsuits,” she told ESPN. 

Daily sessions were divided into three parts, an hour in the pool, an hour on leadership skills and an hour for “We Are Family” time where kids reflected on their experiences during camp.

MORE ABOUT THE SWIM CAMP

Families of the children didn’t need to shell out any money for their kids to join the summer program which is part of a four-week camp that also offers other activities including a basketball camp in James’ alma mater. 

The swim camp was held at the Akron Area YMCA which also provided the instructors and shouldered some of the costs. Breakfast and lunch were served every day to at least 125 kids who joined the training. They make up 60% of James’ “I Promise” school’s population. 

“I would love to see more minorities in the sport of swimming,” she says. “Often, African-American children don't see themselves as swimmers. They see themselves as basketball players or volleyball players or track stars.”  

As part of their training, the children were taught to jump into the pool and work their way to the other side and get out. They were also taught how to float and manage their breathing when tired. Safety skills for emergency situations in the water were likewise explained. 

"...two children under 14 die every day from unintentional drowning and 64% of African Americans have little to no swimming ability.

Daily sessions were divided into three parts, an hour in the pool, an hour on leadership skills and an hour for “We Are Family” time where kids reflected on their experiences during camp.

BEYOND LEARNING THE BASICS OF SWIMMING

More than learning how to swim, their reflections revealed the camp taught them other things like conquering their fears and pushing themselves further, trusting their teachers, forming a stronger bond with their classmates outside of the classroom, and instilling confidence. 

As for Manuel, she looks forward to encouraging interest in the sport realizing that only a few African Americans engage in it.

“I would love to see more minorities in the sport of swimming,” she says. “Often, African-American children don't see themselves as swimmers. They see themselves as basketball players or volleyball players or track stars.”  

The benefits ate great once these kids are invested in swimming, she adds. 

“Introducing the sport of swimming to them not only saves their lives but allows themselves to see the possibility of becoming an Olympic champion like myself. It [could] open the door for a college scholarship in a sport that maybe they didn't feel like was for them."

IMPORTANT STATISTICS ON SWIMMING AND DROWNING

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two children under 14 die every day from unintentional drowning and 64% of African Americans have little to no swimming ability. With these numbers in mind, the efforts of James’ school and Manuel’s contribution should help decrease the figures in this data even by a small margin.

MORE ABOUT "I PROMISE"

James founded the “I Promise” school in 2018 as a means to provide a place for at-risk youth to prosper. It is a partnership between his LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools. Its population consists of 240 third and fourth graders classified as the most at-risk from Akron public schools. Graduates from the “I Promise” school are assured of free tuition to the University of Akron. 

Last month, James announced a new project he created in partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods which donated $1 million to build athletic gyms in low-income areas. It is another milestone and admirable accomplishment for the basketball star who sees to it that his charitable deeds are as impressive as his skills on the hardcourt.