DURHAM, N.C. – When Duke swimmers and divers gather in Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion to teach area children how to swim, they hope the skills they impart will not only help grow the sport; they hope it will also save lives.
Established by former Blue Devil diver Lauren Gonzalez, the Swimming with the Blue Devils initiative has widely expanded its reach since the first clinic was held in the fall of 2007. It has grown to serve dozens of children in the Durham community each year with participants ranging in age from infants to adolescents.
While taking a class at Duke that tackled the issue of social injustices, Gonzalez recognized the correlation between minority or inner-city populations with limited access to water and a high number of drowning incidents. Through further research, she learned that children who grow up in those households are often indoctrinated into a culture that associates swimming pools and water with fear.
“As a safety mechanism, parents will say, ‘Don’t go by the water, don’t go by the pool,’ to their children,” says Duke senior Eneka Lamb, who has headed up the program the last two years. “That reinforces a fear and lack of knowledge and skill.”