By: Jeramy Smith. 4-H Extension Agent.
In the spring of 2015, 4-H had the opportunity to partner with our sister organization, Miami-Dade County EcoAventures, at Amelia Earhart Park to bring our 4-H members canoeing. EcoAdventures provided the canoes and instructions on safety and proper canoeing techniques. Four of the eight 4-H members in attendance went canoeing for the first time.
According to 2010 research from the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 60% of Hispanic/Latinos and 70% of African Americans do not know how to swim. Sadly, minorities are three times more likely to drown than their Caucasian peers. By making canoeing available to youth through Miami-Dade 4-H and EcoAdventures, we open the doors to encourage youth to learn how to swim and eliminate any anxieties of water. If we as a community can reduce the population’s anxiety of water and number of people who cannot swim, we could see an increase in the number of Miami-Dade youth entering into professions dealing with aquatics such as marine science.
The young man that jumped out of the canoe is Jajuan, an eleven year African American and 4-H member from Miami Gardens. Jajuan is a beggining swimmer and he showed courage to jump out of the canoe and into the water.
With his personal flotation device (PFD) securely strapped to his body and encouragement from others, he jumped out of the canoe. Jajuan did have a brief moment of worry shortly after entering the water, but began to relax once he realize that his life jacket supported his body and that his 4-H Agent had accompanied him in the water. The 4-H Agent proceeded to challenge Jajuan to tread water, swim, and raced against the youth in order for Jajuan to grow comfortable being in the water. After 10 minutes of swimming, Jajuan was taught by the staff of EcoAdventures, how to safely board a canoe from the water. With a little assistance, he executed the task with a shout of joy! Jajuan left the 4-H activity soaked to the bone, but with a big smile, because he learned new life skills and to be more comfortable in the water. Getting Jajuan to be comfortable in the water was a huge success!
Jajuan learned valuable life skills during the 4-H and Miami-Dade County EcoAventures canoe trip. He learned to trust his equipment (PFD), as well as to be confident in his ability to safely try new adventures. Jajuan also learned one of the best ways to conqueror one’s fears is to face it head on. We are proud of you Jajuan, and very glad you are part of the 4-H team!
USA Swimming [Web log post]. (2010) Retrieved from USA Swimming (2015, July 27). Why all kids must learn how to swim from usaswimming.org.