Alaska Pacific University addresses swimming lesson shortage

Lack of availability of swim instructors contributes to low number of available swimming lessons
Alaska Pacific University addresses swimming lesson shortage through a partnership with the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 7:21 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Pacific University has partnered with the Alaska Native Heritage Center to host swimming lessons for Alaska Native children.

“This is a very important partnership because we have the opportunity to teach as many as 200 students over a span of time that belong to the Tiamuna grant, how to swim, boating safety, as well as paddle sports,” Alaska Pacific University Assistant Director of Recreational Programs Michele Cateson said.

While pools are not accessible for rural villages in Alaska, there are still resources available to learn water safety.

“Through the American Red Cross, they actually have a land-based water safety program so you can go into the schools, go into libraries, or even just villages and teach that stuff,” Caterson said. “They might not be in the water, learning the mechanics of swimming, but they’re understanding the water safety aspect of it.”

Overall, Alaska ranks second among states in total drownings in the United States. Alaska Pacific University’s general swimming lessons are fully booked, causing concerns over accessibility to swim lessons.

Along with the high demand for swimming lessons in Alaska, there is also a shortage of swim instructors, which Cateson attributes to a lack of safety instructor trainers, which leaves more Alaskans without resources to learn how to swim.

“Here in Alaska, the cold waters within if you were to accidentally fall into that water, with or without a life jacket, those first minute to three minutes, you’re going to have a cold water gasp reflex. It’s going to be so cold, your body’s going to stiffen up and if you don’t have a lifejacket on, that gasp reflex is going to happen underneath the water,” Cateson said.

Cateson said that 44% of all people who drown in Alaska are Alaska Natives.

In order to work against the issue, to learn more about how people can learn more about personal water safety, or even to become an instructor, people can go to the Red Cross website.