CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It happens somewhere in the Carolinas every summer. A young person drowns after falling into water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American children are five times more likely to drown in a swimming pool than white children.

To change statistics like that, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte is offering free water safety classes at 20 different apartment complexes around town. By the end of summer, the program will impact nearly 1000 children. The cost is free, and swimsuits are provided.

"So many families have this fear of the water. This program not only eliminates that fear, it gives them water safety tips," said Instructor Byron Ruff, standing on the deck at a community pool off West Boulevard Tuesday. "That fear of being in the water is no longer there and that is why we do what we do."

Ruff and other instructors teach kids how to float, paddle and climb out of a pool safely.

"The goal is that if a child was to fall in the water he or she would be able to get himself or herself out safely without drowning," said Brandi Weathers with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. "This is part of our core mission at the Y."

"It was very awesome," said participant Andreyona Gordan. "They taught us very well."

Gordan herself had a friend drown back in the summer of 2011. She feels better now knowing how to swim herself.

"They painted a huge rock for him and put his name around it. It was very sad."

The lessons are 40 minutes long and are given over eight days. A lifeguard is also on hand to help if needed.
The program is sponsored by YMCA donors and grants.