With more than 100 schools across North America, Goldfish Swim School can be found coast to coast. From Aliso Viejo, CA to Yorktown Heights, NY, thousands of families call Goldfish home. As our Goldfish Family continues to grow, we want to introduce you to some of the incredible parents, swimmers, team members and partners who are part of our amazing community—each of whom bring a unique perspective to the conversation of swimming and water safety.
As Goldfish Birmingham's team member Matt recently shared, the Black community’s history with swimming is a complicated one. As part of our mission to help children learn how to be safer in and around the water, we remain committed to listening and learning how we can continue to create meaningful and impactful change around the conversation of water safety for all.
This week, we connected with five Goldfish moms from across the country to discuss how their experiences with swimming growing up have shaped their perspective on water safety, and what we can do collectively as a society to help bridge the gap and create a brighter, more inclusive future for the next generation.
MEET KIARA RUTH, A GOLDFISH MOM FROM RALEIGH, NC
Kiara, who recently signed her son up for lessons at Goldfish Swim School - Cary, started a series on her blog called “Miles Will Swim” as a way to document his journey toward becoming a safe, confident swimmer!
In the series, she shares her memories of swimming as a kid and discusses how those experiences shaped the way she felt about the water as a parent with a child of her own.
“Swimming wasn’t something we did very often,” she said. “My mom was big on me not getting my hair wet and told me the chlorine would make my hair fall out. When I did go swimming, I would pay $2 at the community pool and stay in the shallow end because I was afraid of drowning, and I didn’t want to get my hair wet.”
Because of the things she was told about swimming when she was growing up, she developed a fear of the water, and has unintentionally transferred those fears onto her son.
“In the beginning, I would not let Miles swim by himself or without some kind of safety gear because of my lack of knowledge of swimming,” she shared. “He wore puddle jumpers or a life vest until he was about five years old.”
Although she had signed him up for swim lessons once before when he was younger, she didn’t feel like it was something he was ready for at the time. Looking back, she realizes it was more so her not being ready than him.
One day, her husband made the comment that “swimming is a life skill”, and that was all the motivation she needed to sign Miles back up for lessons! When we asked Kiara how she feels Miles’ level of comfort with the water has changed since starting lessons, this is what she had to say:
“I think this question should be how has my comfort level with Miles in the water changed. I say that because Miles has always been ready to swim, but I held him back because of my own insecurities around the water. Miles is not afraid of the water, and he does really well when I am not being a helicopter parent. I've watched him become confident without a life vest. He can swim on his back, get the rings at the bottom of the pool and control his breath for an extended period of time... he can SWIM!”
While swimming wasn’t at the top of their list of sports for Miles, Kiara and her husband realized that in order for Miles to thrive and survive in the water, he needed proper training. When it comes to changing the narrative around swimming and creating positive change, Kiara says water safety education is critical to building confidence around the water, enhancing swim readiness skills and decreasing the risk of drowning.
“There is a lack of education and resources surrounding swimming, especially in Black communities,” she shared. “There are so many things that have held us back from reaching our full potential in the water, like not wanting our hair wet and being told that it will break off; yes, this is true, but with proper hair maintenance, your hair should be fine. There are also other things that play a huge part in propelling progress, like considering the cost of lessons and where pools are being built.”
Before we dive into what Goldfish is doing to provide resources and funding to help ALL children learn to be safer in and around the water, we’d like for you to meet several other moms across the country who have become part of our Goldfish Family.
MEET TALIA BROOKSHIRE, A GOLDFISH MOM FROM FISHERS, IN
Like Kiara, Talia doesn’t have many memories of swimming as a kid. Although her parents told her she took swim lessons when she was younger, the only memory she has of swimming involves a traumatic experience during a class trip to Cancun.
“When I was 14 or 15, our Spanish class took a trip to Cancun,” she recalled. “One day, we went to the beach to go swimming. As I was walking into the water, I got tangled in a parasailing line that pulled me underwater, and I remember trying to fight to get out.”
While her experience could have ended tragically, Talia fortunately survived. Little did she know at the time that she would later go on to work for the USA Swimming Foundation, where her work on the Make a Splash initiative would provide children across America with access to lifesaving swim lessons they may not have otherwise had.
During her time with the USA Swimming Foundation, Talia created a program called Swim 1922. Created in partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho, a black collegiate sorority that has a strong reputation for leading positive change, the program seeks to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport of swimming and decrease the staggering drowning rates in the Black community.
No stranger to the conversation of swimming and water safety, Talia and her husband decided early on they wanted their children to take swim lessons so they could learn skills that could one day save their life.
When their daughter Skylar was old enough to start swim lessons, they signed her up for Mini classes at Goldfish Swim School - Fishers. At three and a half years of age, Skylar is now in a Junior 2 class where she’s becoming more confident in her own swim abilities.
“Skylar loves swimming, she’s our water baby for sure” Talia told us. “She’s made huge strides, and my favorite thing to see is how proud Skylar is of herself after each class. I genuinely appreciate Goldfish and really appreciate the patience and structure they give her. She’s definitely thriving and enjoys showing her younger sister Charley, who will be starting Mini lessons soon, how to perform various swim skills.”
Talia admits that had it not been for her work with the USA Swimming Foundation, her own traumatic experiences around water would have made her more hesitant about enrolling her own child in lessons—a reality that is all too common for others who have a fear of swimming.
“My experience with USA Swimming was probably the main reason why we let Skylar get into swimming,” she mentioned. “There are a number of factors as to why people, especially those in the African American community, don’t swim—the biggest one is fear.”
Talia went on to mention that oftentimes kids aren’t the ones who are afraid of the water, it’s parents. Whether they had some scary experiences with the water, or their parents did before them, the fear of swimming is a generational issue that stems from a historical lack of access to, or acceptance at, aquatics facilities and pools. Addressing those concerns, and educating parents about the impact swim lessons can have on drowning prevention, is something Talia says is crucial for changing the conversation.
“As a parent, your instincts tell you to do whatever you can to keep your kids safe, and the very clear answer is swim lessons,” Talia said. “If my experiences and background have taught me anything, it’s to put my own fears to the side. Kids are resilient, and if you equip them with the right skills, they’ll succeed.”
When it comes to creating real change, Talia also discussed the importance of considering the role that location, hours of operation, pricing and representation play in breaking down barriers and bridging the gap to a brighter future.
“It’s going to take a number of things to change the conversation,” she said. “At some point, it’ll cease to be a big conversation and become something that we just do - like wearing a seatbelt in the car, or a helmet when you ride your bike. I think Skylar’s kids, and their kids after them, are going to swim.”
MEET HYACINTH RUCKER, A GOLDFISH MOM FROM FISHERS, IN
Unlike Kiara and Talia, Hyacinth is someone who did spend a lot of time swimming as a kid, and vividly remembers walking to the pool near her home with her siblings and cousins in the summer, where they would spend hours swimming from side to side, splashing around and playing pool games.
“The swimming pool we frequented always had lifeguards,” she recalled. My brother and I never took professional lessons—we basically taught ourselves how to swim. My sister, who is seven years younger than me, did have the opportunity to take professional lessons. I am truly thankful to God that my visits to the pool all those years ended safely. It could have gone another way.”
Although she never took professional swim lessons, and wasn’t afraid of the water, many of her friends were deathly afraid. As a parent, Hyacinth didn’t want this to be her sons’ experience.
Since enrolling her boys in lessons at Goldfish Swim School - Fishers, she has watched her two oldest sons go from being afraid of the water to becoming confident swimmers who compete in swim meets.
“I watched their confidence go through the roof as they mastered each stroke,” she said. “I have watched them confidently swim in the deep end with no problems, and I no longer worry about them going to the pool with their friends. This is a life lesson they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.”
Jayden, her oldest, was afraid of the water at first. But once he realized he could learn how to swim, he started making major strides in the pool and completed all of the class levels in less than six months! After graduating from Pro 2, he went on to join the Goldfish Swim Force Team and won two of his races. Now that Jayden is older, Hyacinth hopes she can convince him to try out for the swim team in high school next year.
Like Jayden, her middle son, Chase, also conquered his fears of the water quickly. As she recalls, it took a little longer for Chase to master each class, but eventually went on to join Swim Force like his brother.
“I really loved how Swim Force pushed him to work on each stroke,” she said. “He now swims confidently at our neighborhood pool, or when we are on vacation.”
She has no doubts her youngest son Kaleb will follow in his big brothers’ footsteps.
“Kaleb has always been fearless in the water, and looks forward to class each week” she tells us. “He started swimming at Goldfish when he was just three years old, and I continue to be in awe of his fearlessness and how far he has come.”
As a parent, Hyacinth understands just how important it is to make sure families are educated about water safety.
“If you are taught how to protect your child from a water accident, or what precautions you should take to protect them when they are around water, I have no doubt the outcome is more likely to end well,” she said. “I love how Goldfish teaches young children important safety skills, like how to float. If something were to happen, they would have the skills needed to hopefully save themselves.”
MEET DR. KIARRA KING, A GOLDFISH MOM FROM PARK RIDGE, IL
Looking back on her childhood, Dr. Kiarra King remembers learning how to swim a variety of different ways.
“We had lessons at a local Y, and the water, unlike Goldfish, was always freezing,” she said. “I also remember my dad teaching me at our local pool. I overall have positive memories of swimming as a child, minus the frigid temps!”
Like her parents, Dr. Kiarra King knew learning to swim was a lifesaving skill, and she wanted her daughter Kai to have the same opportunity she did.
“Kai has never displayed a fear of water, and I never want her to develop one,” she said. “I just know that I want her to be safe and to enjoy the water.”
Dr. Kiarra King says her daughter has always been comfortable in the water, but that her skills have definitely strengthened since starting lessons at Goldfish Swim School - Park Ridge in 2019.
“When she started lessons, she couldn’t go under water,” she said. “Now, she’s swimming across the pool and her favorite part of class is diving for rings! I love the way Goldfish creates a safe and fun environment for kids. My daughter associates swim lessons with a good time, which ultimately benefits her ability to learn!”
Like all the parents we’ve spoken with, Dr. Kiarra King agrees water safety education is fundamental to drowning prevention and creating a future where kids can enjoy life without fear of water.
MEET JAZMINE, A GOLDFISH MOM FROM MIAMI, FL
Some of Jazmine’s most cherished memories from childhood revolve around annual family vacations at the beach—a tradition she always knew she wanted to maintain when she had her own family.
“We would rent a beach house within walking distance of the sand, and spend all day on the beach,” she recalled. “We boogie boarded, body surfed and splashed around in the ocean until we were exhausted. Then, we had lunch and naps on the sand and splashed around in the ocean until sunset!”
The water, beach and ocean have always been constant themes throughout Jazmine’s life. She and her husband even got married on a beach! As a couple, they spent a lot of time near the water, and it was during a trip to Hawaii she and her husband decided they would name their son Kai, which means sea or ocean in Hawaiian.
Today, Jazmine and her family live in Miami, Florida, where they still enjoy spending time near the water.
“Since we live in Miami, so much of our lives are spent in or near water,” she told us. “We want our kids to be safe and confident during backyard birthday parties, family pool time or trips to the beach, and we’re committed to ensuring they gain life-saving swim and water safety skills.”
Although her husband is an excellent swimmer and loves to surf, and many of her own childhood memories are centered around water, Jazmine says she is not a strong swimmer herself.
“I never wanted my limitations to hold my children back,” she said. “So we signed both of our kids up for lessons at Goldfish Swim School - Pembroke Pines, knowing they would get the confidence they need to be safe and have fun in the water. Our local Goldfish has exceeded my expectations and our kids adore their swim instructors!”
While her kids were comfortable in the water when they first started lessons, they weren’t confident in their abilities. Within just a short few months, Jazmine says her son has gone from Junior 1 all the way to Pro 2, and is well on his way to joining the Swim Force Team! Her daughter Vivi, who didn’t even want to get her face wet when they started lessons, has gone from Mini 3 to Junior 3. She excitedly jumps into the pool with confidence now, and is currently focused on mastering her rollover breath.
“Both of my kids’ confidence levels have gone through the roof since beginning swim classes,” she shared. “They love swimming and have so much fun in the water. My son takes great pride in learning a new stroke and executing it during lessons, and later at home in the pool. He loves to dive for rings and can now proudly swim from one side of the pool to the other in a single breath. My daughter enjoys jumping in the pool and learning new “tricks” but really loves seeing her coach Miss Eliana, who is so sweet and kind to all of the students.”
Living in Florida, Jazmine is all too familiar with the staggering statistics surrounding drowning. With the highest number of drowning-related accidents of any state in the U.S., there have been more than 2,000 drownings in Florida alone over the past 10 years—a statistic that has disproportionately impacted families of color.
According to the CDC, Black children drown in swimming pools at rates 5x higher than other children. A 2017 study by researchers at the University of Memphis also found that 64% of Black children have no or low swimming ability, compared to 45%of Hispanic children and 40% of Caucasian children in the United States.
“These numbers do not exist in a vacuum,” Jazmine says. “Historically Blacks were denied access to public and private swimming pools and beaches, and excluded from suburban neighborhoods with single-family homes and backyard pools. As a result, swimming and water sports are not ingrained in our culture, and while the numbers are changing, many Black adults cannot swim.”
Citing research from the USA Swimming Foundation, Jazmine also went on to share that if a parent doesn’t know how to swim, there is only a 13% chance that their children will learn to swim.
“I didn’t want my children to be in that 13%. While I am not a strong swimmer, as a mother, I will do any and everything in my power to provide my children with a healthy, safe and happy childhood. I knew that I had to equip my children with water safety skills that could potentially save their lives one day.”
While there is a common myth that Black people don’t swim, Jazmine says the real issue lies within education, access and the historical exclusion of African Americans from private and public pools and beaches.
“During the Civil Rights Movement, the push for integration of public pools and beaches was sometimes met with violent resistance, and the images of hotel managers pouring acid into a public pool in St. Augustine, or police officers arresting Black swimmers are ingrained into our collective memory,” she shared. “While times have changed greatly, there are still some communities that do not have access to public or private pools, especially for families and children that live in cities or other urban environments! You can’t learn to swim and enjoy swimming if you don’t have a safe place to swim!”
Jazmine went on to share that as a kid who grew up in busy New York, she didn’t have a public pool or backyard pool to go to. It wasn’t until after her family moved to a suburban community in Maryland when she was 9 years old that she had access to a neighborhood pool that offered swim lessons.
“Based on my personal experiences and historical knowledge, it was a priority that my children learned to swim,” she said. “I hope to break the cycle and stereotypes that Black families don’t swim by continuing to raise awareness about swim safety and water fun for all!”
Today, Jazmine is passionate about using her social media platform (@adventuresoflawyermom) to document her family’s life and educate her audience on swim safety and water fun. She encourages all families, especially Black families, to sign up for swim lessons.
HOW WE’RE MAKING WAVES, GIVING BACK & SAVING LIVES
At Goldfish, we’re always in search of new ways to better not just the communities we serve, but every community—which is why we joined forces with the USA Swimming Foundation in 2018 to provide funding for swim lessons and water safety education to underserved communities across the country.
We've committed to raising $1 million dollars to support their annual grant program, and to date, we are proud to say our contributions have provided learn-to-swim opportunities to over 10,000 children who otherwise might not have had access to swim lessons! Our individually-owned-and-operated schools are also proud to support their communities through scholarship opportunities and various outreach programs as well.
For the past seven years, the owner of Goldfish Swim School St. Charles and Glen Ellyn has taken a group of Goldfish team members on an annual volunteer trip to Belize, where they teach children in a remote fishing village how to swim.
We realize there is more work to be done, and we remain committed to listening and learning so we can help our country create meaningful and impactful change around the conversation of water safety for children in underserved communities.
With more than 100 locations across North America, we’re on a mission to provide children with life-saving skills, and parents peace of mind! Should you have any questions about water safety, swim lessons at Goldfish, or how to help support our mission of ensuring all children learn how to be safer in and around the water, we encourage you to reach out to your local Goldfish Swim School.