Student Org Spotlight: Swim 4 Success offers free swim lessons to New Orleans community

finding intersectionality together

Anh Nguyen | Associate Artist

Swim 4 Success, a nonprofit organization at Tulane, offers free swimming lessons to 82 children ages 4-18 in the New Orleans area whose families would otherwise be unable to afford them.

The organization was founded by Laura White, a Tulane alumna who was inspired to start the organization after saving five children from drowning while working at a Georgia summer camp. White created Swim 4 Success to offer a free service that would allow people from all backgrounds to learn the basic skills of swimming and work toward preventing drownings.

Swim 4 Success’s mission is to educate children on the importance of water safety by teaching them basic swim techniques and how to maneuver in the water, all while stressing the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Lessons are taught from 2-6 p.m. every Sunday at Reily Student Recreation Center on Tulane’s campus, with five different time slots of one-hour sessions which are entirely run by 67 Tulane student instructors.  

Swim 4 Success also provides an accessible avenue for Tulane students to engage with city residents and form lasting relationships with children in the surrounding area.

“I’ve been working with my same kid for four years, so I know him very well,” program director and senior Olivia Evangelides said. “I’ve literally seen him grow up.  I know his family, and his younger brother is now in the program … that’s my favorite part about it.”

An integral part of these connections stems from conversations and time swimmers spend with the Tulane students who act as instructors.

“I worked with this kid named Chaz, and he was just the most rambunctious child, which is the opposite of me …” swim instructor and sophomore Antonia Asher said. “He challenged me to come out of my comfort zone a little bit and become a little more high energy and excited.”

The program has been rapidly growing since its inception, with a 25 percent increase in the number of participants and instructors this year alone.  The current waitlist consists of more than 300 children, meaning potential members might have to wait more than a year and a half before joining the program.

Due to rising rates of involvement, the need to expand the overall size and scope of the program on campus has become a priority for the organization in addition to managing the influx of potential participants and instructors.  Swim 4 Success plans to hold its first ever fundraiser swimathon in December and eventually add a swim team to the program so graduated students can have the opportunity to stay involved in some way.

“Every time I look at that, it’s what brings me to keep pushing forward and keep making more changes so that we can involve more kids,” executive director and senior Alex Pavlakis said. “It would be nice to see … the love for swimming to be spread to as many kids as possible.”

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