DeKalb County

DeKalb County woman opens school to help change the racial disparity in swimming

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Most people do not think about swimming on a chilly day, but for one Atlanta woman, she believes it is never too cold for swim education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black children are five and a half times more likely to drown than white children.

Channel 2′s Candace McCown spoke with one woman who is on a mission to change those stats.

When Trish Miller was in college at age 19, she decided to give swimming a try.

“When I jumped into the water, I thought I knew what to do and panicked. I swallowed a lot of water, yelled, screamed,” Miller told Channel 2 Action News.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

She nearly drowned. Years later, in graduate school, she learned her experience wasn’t unique.

“Middle-school-aged Black children actually drown 10 times more than white children,” Miller said.

The knowledge led Miller to open SwemSchool, where, with scholarships and donations, she’s changing the racial disparity in swimming.

“We’re solving the three most identified reasons as to why people of color don’t swim as much. That is access: access to the water, cost of lessons and hair,” she said.

She’s addressing all of those issues, even giving out hair care.

It’s a place where students like 8-year-old Destinee Williams can learn water safety.


“What’s your goal?” we asked.

“To stay under water for 10 seconds,” Williams answered.

Miller is a believer that the racial disparity in swimming could be changed in just a generation.

Decades after nearly drowning, swimming is a skill that Miller learned alongside her students, crossing the pool for her first lap a year after opening SwemSchool.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]