Swim to the Top Participants to Be Recognized at Closing Program

Photos by Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistant

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Participants ages 4 to 14 and University of Alabama and local officials will celebrate Swim to the Top, a four-week program designed to save lives and improve the health of at-risk children and youth, at a luncheon Thursday, June 30, at 11:30 a.m. at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA.

Each UA student swim instructor works with only four or five participants at a time to ensure personal attention and quality instruction. In addition to swimming, participants also engage in fitness exercises, receive diet information, and play games to improve agility, cardiorespiratory endurance, balance, muscular strength and endurance, coordination and flexibility. Beginning last year, the students were also exposed to the game of golf through the participation of the First Tee of Tuscaloosa.

In its third year, the program is a collaborative effort of the Benjamin Barnes Branch of the YMCA, Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority (PARA), UA’s department of kinesiology and UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “We do believe our collective efforts will lead to youth who are more comfortable in the water and are more aware and knowledgeable of the importance of nutrition and physical activity in their lives,” said LaKeda Smith, Barnes Branch YMCA executive director.

“Projects such as Swim to the Top offer UA graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to gain valuable practical teaching, research and service experience,” said Dr. Matthew Curtner-Smith, department head and professor in the department of kinesiology and faculty advisor to the project.

The World Health Organization lists drowning as the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that these children have the highest drowning rates in the nation and the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans is 5.5 times higher than whites across all ages Taking part in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

Dr. Rosianna Gray, CCBP community education director, praised the results of the program and said plans are under way to host the program again next year. At the luncheon, session leaders from the various components of Swim to the Top will recognize the participating students, their families and program team members.

Members of the swim team assisting with the program this year are Stephen Casale, Mallory Durbin, Caitlyn Freeman, Abigail Greenwalt, Joshua Harper, Jennifer Jensen, Jessica Lambert, Alexandra McNatt, Carrington Rye and Jenna Starck.

Other instructors and facilitators include Lakeda Smith, Laura Payton, Mark Harrison and Brandon McAway (administrative team); Mishon Flanigan, Julia Sanders, Antonio Gardner and Savannah Millsaps (enrichment and nutrition team); Dr. Jermaine Mitchell, Rebecca Lundgren, and Douglas Craddock (fitness team).

Zachary Wahl-Alexander, a former graduate student in kinesiology and campus leader in community engagement, is credited with the initial planning that resulted in the program.


The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

CONTACT: David Miller, UA University Relations, 205/348-0825, dcmiller2@bama.ua.edu SOURCE: Carol Agomo, director community and administrative affairs, UA Division of Community Affairs, cnagomo@ua.edu