Making Your Mark: Congratulations Leslie! Keeping kids safe with RAPS

13News Now LaSalle Blanks has the story.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC-TV) -- Kids love RAPS. For many children in Hampton Roads, RAPS has kept them alive.

"This is what I was put on this Earth to do," said Leslie Paul.

Leslie is an avid swimmer. In 2007, she created her RAPS program to teach kids how to swim so they can stay safe in the water.

RAPS stands for "Really Awesome People Swimming." It's a week-long camp that teaches children all of the strokes water skills they need to stay safe. She's focused primarily on minority children.

More than 2000 children have graduated from Leslie's program, which caught the attention of Senator Mark Warner. 

The program's success moved the Virginia senator to send a letter of congratulations to Leslie for her awesome service to the community!

She says there's an important reason that inspired the idea for her program.

"I read an article about high rates of minority drowning and I figured I could do something about it," Leslie said.

She has and she's loved it.

PHOTOS: Keeping kids safe with RAPS

"I think she's a great person," said AJ West, one of the swimmers to participate in RAPS. "I think of her like another mother to me."

AJ was so inspired by Leslie that after about three years of doing RAPS, he resurfaced and now Leslie is coaching him to hopefully become an Olympic swimmer one day.

"She's the one who taught me everything," AJ said. "She motivates me every time."

"For them to overcome their fears and go in deep water and swim across the deep end -- that's what it's all about," Leslie said. "They're good kids."


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