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Black Youth

in Rhode Island drown at

five times

the rate of White Youth.

Swim Empowerment

works to stop this

alarming trend.

RAY Rickman Named 2024 Y Hero!

Swim Empowerment

Register Your Child

to Learn How to Swim


If your child has participated in swimming lessons through our program in the past, please complete the post-lesson survey below

How the Free Swim Lesson Registration Process Works

The diagram to the right demonstrates

the process of registering and utilizing Swim Empowerment's Free Swim

Lesson Program.

It's Easy!

Call your YMCA

The first step is calling your local YMCA to confirm there is still an opening for non-swimmers in your child's age bracket and for the period of time you wish them to attend.


The second step is to apply using the "Register Now" Button above. Go ahead!

Await Enrollment

Once your application has been received, it will be forwarded tot he YMCA you have chosen. They will contact you to schedule lessons for your child.


Once the YMCA has scheduled your child's lesson, you will receive a call or email from the YMCA directly confirming logistics. Now your child is ready to start his/her swimming lessons!

Please check your phone and email frequently for confirmation.

Partnering YMCAs

Cranston YMCA

East Side/Mt. Hope YMCA

Kent County YMCA (Warwick)

Newman YMCA (Seekonk, MA)

South County YMCA (Peace Dale)

Newport County YMCA (Middletown)

Pawtucket Family Branch YMCA

Woonsocket YMCA

(401) 943-0444

(401) 521-0155

(401) 828-0130

(508) 336-7103

(401) 783-3900

(401) 847-9200

(401) 727-7900

(401) 769-0791


Stages of Freedom's Swim Empowerment program relies heavily on small donations from generous individuals and businesses. We operate a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-exempt. Please consider making a donation today to help us continue funding children's swimming programs and grow in our community.

See swim Empowerment
featured in
RI PBS Weekly's
"Swimming Upstream"

Swim Empowerment


U.S. Senator Jack Reed
Kenney Brothers Foundation
Bazarsky Family Foundation
Town Fair Tire
Rhode Island  Senate Legislative Grant - RI Senator Samuel D. Zurier
Rotary Club of Providence
The ACT Foundation
Miriam Hospital

Hassenfeld Family Foundation
Barrington Congregational Church
Seekonk Congregational Church
Ricci Family Fund
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI
Rhode Island Foundation
Providence Shelter
Gary & Lois Caplinger
Berry-Jean Murray
Philp Weinstein
William Conley, Esq
Pamela Rawson
Ann McGloshen
David & Mary Oberg
Herbert Rakatansky, MD
Peter McClure

Dexter Commission - City of Providence
Norman & Rosalie Fain Family Foundation

Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund
Sarah Dowling
Matthew Lopes, Jr. Esq.
McAdams Charitable Foundation
First Unitarian Church of Providence
Basic Human Needs
King's Cathedral

Aiden & Gianni are thumbs up about

Swim Empowerment as they learn to swim

at the East Side Y!

Aiden learns to swim at the East Side YMCA

Aiden swimming at the East Side YMCA

Removing Barriers to Swimming Proficiency in the Rhode Island African American Community

Swim Empowerment, a program of Stages of Freedom, has released an important report on ways to eliminate the obstacles that prevent African Americans in Rhode Island from becoming swimmers. The report entitled "Removing Barriers to Swimming Proficiency in Rhode Island African American Community", provides a comprehensive outline of the economic, cultural, and psychological barriers that prevent minorities in Rhode Island from learning how to swim and presents a comprehensive 10 year plan to teach them how to swim.

The report explains that the US has nearly 3,500 accidental drownings of children every year, almost 10 a day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children. The fatal drowning rate of African American children aged 5-14 is three times that of white children. This startling statistic may be attributed to the fact that 70% of African Americans do not know how to swim. Swim Empowerment seeks to change these numbers by giving Rhode Island youth direct access to the resources they need to learn how to swim: transportation, open pools, and highly qualified, culturally-sensitive swimming instructors.

Swim Empowerment's mission is to create a new generation of swimmers in the African American Rhode Island community and to provide all Rhode Island children with the opportunity to learn how to swim. Its 2016 goal was to raise $20,000 to pay for swimmers.

Dr. Michael Fine, former director of the RI Department of Health, gave his full support of Swim Empowerment's initiative. In the report's foreword he remarks, "It is with pleasure and pride that I add my voice to this report's call for action, to the undertaking of Swim Empowerment". While complex, and frequently specific to minority and low-income communities, he insists that barriers to equal participation in this sport are "not insurmountable". Dr. Fine note that swimming is not only a life-saving skill, "swimming is also freedom".

Ray Rickman, Executive Director of Stages of Freedom, was inspire to combat the disparity in drowning rates for African Americans after he saw young men and women drown due to their not knowing how to swim, which he insists should be a basic life skill. Rickman relates a particularly tragic anecdote about a mother whose son drowned 22 years ago at Rhode Island's Lincoln Woods State Park. Rickman, then State Representative from Providence's College Hill, promised this mother that he would do something about the inordinate drowning rate among Black children. Rickman believes the time has come for him to turn his full attention to teaching young African Americans how to swim.


"Twenty-two years later I am as good as my word", he writes in the Report's preface. Rickman describes Swim Empowerment as "the major undertaking of my life". He hopes that all Rhode Islander's will get deeply involved to show that together "we can value each of our citizens equally" by promoting swimming, which is not only a life-saving skill but also an excellent opportunity to promote health and wellness. "Please join us", Rickman writes. "After all, I promised a mother". 

David Jackson

Richard Wishnie

Colette Ballew

Suzanne Newman

Shelley Evans

Steven Pare

Krystle Ford & Jon Belisle

White Plains Bureau of Public Works

Christine & Richard MacManus

Janet Jordan

Fae Rosenthal

Shelley B. Mayer & Lee O. Smith

Margaret Vlymen & Dean Wood

Debbie Hennes

Paul Redd

Sister to Sister International, Inc.

Beverley Bellisio


1/23/1956 - 7/9/2019

View Obituary

The following have donated to swim empowerment in memory of our great champion

paula redd rollins

Post-Lesson Survey

For parents whose children have participated in swimming lessons provided by Stages of Freedom, we ask that you take a survey based on the experience. Survey data will help us better serve future participants. All of your answers are completely confidential.

Thank you for your participation.

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