More Minneapolis kids can learn to swim, thanks to new funding from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

Knowing how to swim is more than just fun and fitness; it can also save a life. MPRB offers lessons for all ages and abilities, with scholarships and donated swimwear available to help make swimming more accessible and equitable.

Yesterday at Webber Natural Swimming Pool, MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura and Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson announced generous new funding to help MPRB expand low-cost swim lessons to more people.

For Minneapolis youth who qualify, a series of eight lessons with a scholarship is just $5, versus the typical $50 cost; scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those low-cost swimming lessons are part of the Water and Ice Safety Education (WISE) program launched by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and take place throughout the summer at at a variety of MPRB aquatics facilities. In addition to standard swimming lessons, WISE scholarships are available to individuals interested in women’s-only swimming lessons and lifeguard training classes.

“People who live in Minnesota value the time they can spend in our beautiful rivers and lakes, and the Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to keeping people safe around water,” said Hennepin County Sheriff David P. Hutchinson . “It’s that dedication that’s driving us to increase our water safety education. Learning to swim shouldn’t be limited to only families who can afford it, it’s a life skill that should be offered to all Minnesotans.”

MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura added, “Safety through recreation education is one of the most important things we can do to help protect children of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black children are five times more likely to die in a drowning accident than white children. That’s unacceptable and that’s why this partnership with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is so important. It will expand our programs that provide hundreds of low-cost swimming lessons for children and adults across Minneapolis.”

More information on WISE swimming scholarships

Interested in applying for a WISE swimming scholarship for yourself or a child? Classes are held throughout the summer at various MPRB lakes and pools and year-’round at the Phillips Aquatics Center.

For more information on MPRB swim lessons and scholarships, email or call 612-230-6495.

About Water and Ice Safety Education (WISE) 

The Water Patrol unit of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is responsible for safety on Hennepin County’s lakes and rivers. One of the best ways the HCSO can achieve safety on the water is through education. With this goal in mind, the HCSO has launched a new Water and Ice Safety Education (WISE) program.

The centerpiece of WISE is a partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) to offer low-cost swimming lessons to those who need to learn to swim but cannot afford to learn.

According to the CDC, about 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning nationwide. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Fortunately, the risk of drowning drops 88 percent for young people if they participate in formal swimming lessons.

Safety tips when children are near water

  • Always watch children around water, without being distracted.
  • Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult at all times.
  • Teach children how to swim. Enroll your child when they are ready. Consider their age, development, and how comfortable they are around water.
  • Children should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in the water. Air-filled and foam toys are NOT safety devices and not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall. Pool fences should have self-closing and self-latching gates.
  • Immediately drain water from bath tubs once bath time is over.
  • Empty buckets, containers, and kiddie pools immediately after use. Store them upside down so they don’t collect water.
  • Keep safety equipment near pools, such as a shepherd’s hook. If attempting a rescue, hand something to the struggling person or pull them to safety with the hook.
  • Learn how to perform CPR.