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International Sorority Honors USA Swimming: Partnership Decreases Drowning Deaths Amongst African Americans

Swim 1922 Clinic (Photo Credit: PRNewsfoto/Sigma Gamma Rho)

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. has awarded its Community Service Partnership Award to USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in the United States, for its partnership with the sorority to drive down drowning deaths among African Americans. The award was presented on Friday, September 22, 2017 during a reception at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, 999 9th Street NW, Washington, DC.

The partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho is a historic initiative that seeks to strengthen USA Swimming’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and to increase swim participation and decrease drowning rates in the community. The sorority’s five-year old partnership with USA Swimming, “Swim 1922,” is named for the year the sorority was founded and includes swim clinics and water safety training led by U.S. OlympianMaritza McClendon, a Sigma Gamma Rho member and the first African American to break a U.S. swimming record, spearheads the collaboration. Supporting her in this effort is Olympian Cullen Jones, winner of a gold medal and two silvers in swimming.

Last year they crisscrossed the country to host 100 swimming events, nearly one every other day, and gave 2,500 swimming lessons to children and adults.

Tim Hinchey, president & CEO of USA Swimming will accept the award on behalf of the organization, and McClendon and Jones will deliver remarks during the event.

U.S. Olympians Maritza McClendon and Cullen Jones (PRNewsfoto/Sigma Gamma Rho)

As part of the Congressional Black Caucus events, the two organizations will host a Swim 1922 booth #524 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Olympians McLendon and Jones will visit local D.C. schools on Thursday, September 21st, and Friday, September 22nd, and they will make waves onSunday, September 24th, as they lead a swim clinic forWashington, D.C. and Maryland youth at Gaffney Fitness Center, 6330 Broadfoot Road, Bldg. 6330., Fort Meade, MD.

Sigma Gamma Rho President Deborah Catchings-Smith said, “USA Swimming has distinguished itself as a remarkable leader and advocate for water safety in communities of color.” Catchings-Smith continues, “Their outstanding contributions and continuing commitment to elevating awareness and understanding of water safety has helped reduce the staggering number of drownings that occur in our communities.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 10 people drown on average each day, in swimming pools and African-American youths, ages 15 to 19, make up a disproportionate share of those deaths.

The partnership developed after the USA Swimming Foundation commissioned a study by the University of Memphisthat discovered 70 percent of African American children have low or no swim compared to 40% of Caucasians.

Nearly 20,000 sorority members and affiliates participated in scores of swim clinics at colleges, universities and community pools throughout the country. Black and Hispanic youngsters learned a range of skills, from the fundamentals of swimming to rescue tactics.

A recent study by the USA Swimming Foundation revealed a 5-10 percent improvement amongst America’s youth in overall swimming ability from its previous findings in 2010. The University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegasconducted the study. USA Swimming attributes much of this improvement to the sorority’s efforts.

Seven educators founded Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., an international collegiate and non-profit community service organization in 1922 at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sorority has welcomed more than 90,000 members as undergraduates and professionals. It has more than 500 chapters in the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada,Germany, Korea and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more info, visit

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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