Dezirae Pena, 8, responds to a question about water safety from Janique Muckelvene, who works for the Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission on May 23. The agency visited schools such as Capitol Heights to celebrate May as National Water Safety Month. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Dezirae Pena, 8, responds to a question about water safety from Janique Muckelvene, who works for the Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission on May 23. The agency visited schools such as Capitol Heights to celebrate May as National Water Safety Month. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Dezirae Pena recalled her first experience swimming took place at her friend’s house inside a small pool.

Elijah Myers said he also learned to swim during a pool party a friend’s house.

However, Caleb Elijah James said his stepfather taught him during a trip to Massanutten resort in Virginia.

“I like the water because I want to become a marine biologist,” Caleb said as he held a water safety activity book. “I like to swim. It’s fun.”

Caleb and about 50 other second-graders at Capitol Heights Elementary learned about the importance of water safety thanks to Janique Muckelvene and Stephanie Schumacher, two employees with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Muckelvene and Schumacher visited Capitol Heights and four other elementary schools in Prince George’s County for the first time this year to continue its May initiative to commemorate National Water Safety Month.

The commission continues to hold its “Make A Splash” program to teach elementary school children about the importance of water safety in and out the pool.

“But I noticed the children are more focused in this type of setting,” Muckelvene said during the visit at Capitol Heights on Thursday, May 23. “They really listened and paid attention.”

The month not only celebrates Memorial Day to commemorate men and women who died in military service, but also serves as an unofficial holiday to begin the celebration of summer.

Public pools also opened this month throughout the D.C. region where children frolic, laugh and of course, get wet.

But there’s some seriousness being around the water, especially for children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die from unintentional drownings every day and the leading cause of death among children are those ages 1 to 4.

Also on Thursday, Morgan Miller posted a video on Instagram with Nicole Hughes to conduct a PSA on promoting a water safety plan. Both mothers lost their children on the same day due to drowning last year.

“Time is not on our side when it comes to water,” said a tearful Miller, who’s married to former Olympic skier Bodie Miller. “It takes seconds.”

A 2017 study from USA Swimming conducted by the universities of Memphis and Nevada-Las Vegas show 64 percent of Black children have no or low swimming ability. They ranked last among all races groups.

That’s why the organization has an initiative to teach 1.5 million children how to swim by the end of 2020

Back in Capitol Heights, the students watched a video called “Wild About Safety with Timon and Pumbaa.” All the children recalled the safety measures such as:

• Think before you get wet;

• Wear a life jacket in a boat while in a pond or lake;

• No running on the pool deck; and

• Go into the water feet first.

The most important messages the students repeated: “Be cool, follow the rules.”

The commission’s goal will be to travel to more schools next year in the northern, central and southern parts of the county to incorporate water safety.

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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