The Rockaway Hotel & Rising Tide Effect Teach Kids to Swim


Year after year, Rockaway sees several drownings when lifeguards aren’t on duty. In response, The Rockaway Hotel and Rising Tide Effect have teamed up to try to prevent such drownings by teaching youth from under-served communities swimming lessons and skills, right in The Rockaway Hotel pool.

This new Swim Initiative Program, is founded on the principle that swimming is a critical life skill and has the power to save lives while also promoting self-development at a critical age for young adults. For children ages 1–14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes. Children local to the Rockaway peninsula have an elevated drowning risk due to their close proximity to the ocean, which becomes even greater when they swim outside hours with lifeguards on duty. “Last year, at least seven [swimmers] were stolen by its sea. All were young, all were people of color,” wrote Corina Knoll, The New York Times Metro Reporter on June 26, 2020.

The Rockaway Hotel and 7G Group have partnered with The Rising Tide Effect, a non-profit that seeks to bring positive change to underserved communities, to support their shared joint goals of uplifting and empowering individuals through swimming. Following the successful pilot program, which launched in October 2020 and served seven students from St. John’s Residence for Boys, The Rockaway Hotel and Rising Tide Effect have expanded the program this summer to serve a greater number of students from across the Rockaway Peninsula. The initiative targets swimmers ages 9 to 14 years old, providing critical swimming skills as they approach greater independence. The primary desired outcome is to ensure that each student can swim to save their life. Lessons focus on swimming fundamentals like buoyancy and basic swim strokes, while also imparting safety methods for navigating marine environments and conditions and creating expansive opportunities for students to use swimming as a vehicle for personal development.

“Since opening, The Rockaway Hotel has served as an anchor for the community—a gathering place for locals and an opportunity to implement meaningful programming. Community engagement is one of our key pillars, with the goal of supporting and elevating local culture” Michi Jigarjian, managing partner and Chief Social Impact Officer said. “In partnering with Rising Tide Effect, we are excited to build strong bonds with local charities and organizations to support the Swim Initiative, executing our core values of social impact.”

“I am thrilled to partner with The Rockaway Hotel this summer and beyond to offer free swim lessons to children from the local community,” Kate Krause, founder of Rising Tide Effect said. “I know what swimming did for me and many others, in all aspects of life, and I am grateful that I am able to provide these children an opportunity to learn this critical life skill and potentially pursue it as a sport or a career.”

Lead sponsorship for the Swim Initiative has been provided by 7G Foundation with generous support from Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, JP and Lucy Rorech, and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato Community Budget Initiative program.

Offering more than just swim lessons, the program offers swim gear, meals and transportation to all students. New trunks, goggles, and caps were generously provided by Arena, improving performance and helping to foster self confidence in the students. The Rockaway Hotel provides meals after each lesson, during which swimmers participate in open dialogue with instructors and guest mentors from the aquatics field. These include collegiate and professional athletes, locals who used lifeguarding as the entry point to a career path, as well representatives from organizations who offer local swimming opportunities.

Students leave the program with resources that will allow them to obtain lifeguarding and CPR certification, join a local swim team to further develop skills and interact with peers or meet swim requirements for military service and select universities.

Student groups will meet in monthly sessions through October 2021. In addition to ‘in-water’ training, each group will complete a dry lesson that comprises a Water Safety Module developed by Swim Strong Foundation, outlining safety precautions and unique aquatic environments relevant to local ocean and bay access.

In an effort to provide equitable access to the program for swimmers living across the Rockaway peninsula, The Swim Initiative has partnered with a number of nonprofits, city programs and community groups including Broad Channel Athletic Club, Friends of Seaside Playground, Millennium Development after school program, NYC’s Summer Rising Program, St John's Residence for Boys and Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy for outreach to families to present this opportunity. With demand exceeding capacity, families identified through community partners, who have experienced hardship in the last year are prioritized for participation along with swimmers with the closest proximity to water.

The June sessions recently wrapped up. One swimmer, Tamia, ended the session by swimming unassisted for the first time. She’ll soon be going to her first pool party. And the good vibes continue. The July session officially began on July 6.

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Photo by Le CollectiveM.

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