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

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

paula redd rollins

1/23/1956 - 7/9/2019

View Obituary

Photos provided by Google

Aiden & Gianni

Aiden learns to swim at the East Side YMCA

Aiden & Gianni are thumbs up about

Swim Empowerment as they learn

to swim at the East Side Y!

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". 

Swim Empowerment


Miriam Hospital

Hassenfeld Family Foundation

Ricci Family Fund

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI

Rhode Island Foundation

Providence Shelter

Gary & Lois Caplinger

Dexter - City of Providence


Past Sponsors

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

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.



Stages of Freedom · 10 Westminster Street · Providence, RI 02903 · (401) 421-0606