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VIRGINIA BEACH -- Drowning is said to be the second leading cause of death for American children under age 14, and the numbers are greater among the black population.

Earlier this month, 10-year-old Lakee Copeland drowned while visiting the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

According to USA Swimming, 60% of the nation's black children cannot swim.

But at the Windsor Oaks swimming pool in Virginia Beach, a program called RAPS, Really Awesome People Swimming, is working to change those numbers. The lessons through RAPS are free and open to the public; however, there is a waiting list.

'Everybody needs to learn how to swim, but nobody should every swim when there is not a lifeguard present,' said Leslie Paul, founder of RAPS.

The city operates six public pools. Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson wants to see swimming lessons for every second grade student in Virginia Beach Public Schools.

'We have children drowning. It's a public safety issue,' said Wilson. 'We live in a water community and we shouldn't be letting our children drown because they don't know how to swim.'

Councilwoman Wilson is calling on school board members and her colleagues on city council to get behind her proposal and start the program next year. It's estimated to cost anywhere from $200,000 - $300,000 per year to provide those lessons.


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