The community unites to prepare children for the opening of the Murray Park Community Pool After 45 years of funding debates and political disputes, the Murray Park Community Pool will open in late summer. It’s a dream come true for many South Miami residents – especially the children. They will be able to splash, wade, cool off and swim in the new pool. And Tina Carroll-Scott, M.D., medical director of South Miami Children’s Clinic, wants to be sure they are ready – and safe.
She collaborated with community leaders, school leaders and student athletes to arrange swim lessons for the children enrolled in the Gibson-Bethel Community Center afterschool program. Every Tuesday and Thursday, 30 children hop on vans bound for the Ransom Everglades Broad REACH Pool. They then hop in the water to learn water safety and swimming skills taught by volunteer student athletes.
“I see a lot of children at my clinic who do not know how to swim because there has not been access to a pool,” Dr. Scott said. “I wanted to make sure our children could utilize the pool fully upon its completion.”
Dr. Scott knew the REACH (Ransom Everglades Athletes Can Help) program was offering swim lessons to children from Overtown. She contacted Ransom’s Assistant Athletic Director, Director of Aquatic Center and Athletic Facilities Andy De Angulo and asked if he would extend the program to the children from South Miami. “He didn’t hesitate for one moment to say ‘yes,’” Dr. Scott said.
“We have support from the school, the students and parents to offer a program like this to kids who don’t have the same opportunities,” explained Coach De Angulo.
Dr. Scott put the wheels in motion and presented the plan to Mayor Phillip Stoddard, City Manager Steven Alexander, Director of Human Resources Latasha Nickle and Director of Parks and Recreation Lorenzo Woodley, who all enthusiastically agreed to get the necessary approvals.
“This program is critically important as we prepare for the opening of the pool,” said Alexander. “The goal is to teach as many kids as possible how to be safe in the water.”
Enasia Carter, a 7-year old who attends Ludlam Elementary School, says she was scared of the water at first, but not anymore. “I’m learning how to float, kick with my feet and move my arms,” she said. “I swim and play, and I get to go with the big kids. It’s great!”
The hour-long swim lessons at Ransom are taught by members of the Ransom Everglades Swimming team and the Miami Swimming Team, which includes student athletes from area schools such as Coral Gables High, Mast Academy, Miami Palmetto Senior High, Carrollton School and Ransom. De Angulo has coached the Ransom team for 15 years and the Miami Swimming Team for 16 years.
“We have about 30 volunteer swim instructors in this program,” said Coach De Angulo. “These students really love this opportunity. They are living out the mission of this school – to be a good person and give back to the community. They know they are making a difference and helping these kids in a ways that nobody else can.”
Woodley knows first-hand the importance of water safety. His brother drowned at age 13 in Blue Lake on Miller Drive because he didn’t know how to swim.
“We’ve also had children drown in these canals,” he added. “We’ve asked for this pool for 40 years. It’s important that our children are ready for it.”
To help prepare them, Woodley graciously donated swim caps to the children in the lesson program and Dr. Scott donated swim bags. Woodley credits Dr. Scott for “spearheading and pushing this effort” and she credits the team at South Miami City Hall for expediting the logistics and paperwork.
“It’s really amazing what can be accomplished when a community comes together to achieve a common goal,” Dr. Scott said. “Great things can happen.”