BOSTON – Thursday, February 29, 2024 – Mayor Michelle Wu, the Human Services Cabinet, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) today announced expanded investments in water safety through the City’s Swim Safe program. The City is opening up a new round of grant funding to support learn-to-swim programming for historically underserved communities. This expansion builds on an investment made by the City this past fall to offer free swim lessons through the winter months. The investment is part of the Mayor’s initiative Connect, Learn, Explore – to build a family-friendly city where every child has the opportunity to explore their passions.

BCYF Marshall Pool in Dorchester, closed for many years, reopened last fall. The pool reopening was officially celebrated by the community at a Black History Month event on February 28th. BCYF Mattahunt Community Center pool in Mattapan will reopen this summer following the completion of a multi-year $12.7 million renovation of the community center.

“As a coastal city, we want to make sure all our young people can safely enjoy our water and pools,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “By expanding our Swim Safe partnership, we’re ensuring our youth are also able to explore all their interests to make Boston the best place to raise a family. I’m grateful to our partners for their continued support for our young people.”

The Swim Safe initiative was originally announced in July 2023. To date, the city has served more than 1,000 youth participants who have received free swim lessons. To continue to support the high demand for free swim lessons and importance of water safety in a coastal city, Boston is expanding the program to offer additional support to aquatics providers.

The previous round of grant funding for the Swim Safe initiative supported partners to offer free swim lessons throughout the winter at pools in Boston operated by the YMCA of Greater Bostonthe Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and DotHouse Health. This new round of funding will continue to support free lessons this spring in advance of the summer swim season. Priority will be placed on providing lessons for beginner-level swimmers.

“As a parent and former lifeguard, I am passionate about getting children and families access to city pools, swim lessons, and water safety information,” said José Massó, Chief of Human Services for the City of Boston. “These grant opportunities and pool openings represent progress and a lot of hard work on the part of this administration, and I look forward to continuing our momentum into the summer months.”

Despite being a coastal city with beaches along the harbor and numerous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, not all Boston residents have equal access to opportunities to learn how to swim. Nationally, fatal drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 years old and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 5-14 (CDC). Black and Latino youth are less likely to know how to swim and therefore are at higher risk of drowning (CDC).

“DotHouse Health is extremely proud to partner with the City of Boston to help provide free swimming lessons to all youth and families in our communities,” said Michelle Nadow, President & CEO of DotHouse Health. “We are very appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate and to continue to expand accessible swimming resources in our neighborhoods.”

“Providing water safety education to the community is a public health imperative, and we are proud to support Swim Safe Boston so community members can enjoy the health benefits of water recreation,” said Jeff Bellows, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “This program eliminates the barriers of access and education so that people across the city can safely enjoy our local pools and beaches.”

The City is acting with urgency to renovate several city-owned pools, many of which were built in the 1970s. Mayor Wu has made an unprecedented commitment to aquatics programming by commissioning a first-ever citywide evaluation of aquatics infrastructure with the goal of expediting the improvements needed to get city pools back open. In addition to the assessment, this fiscal year, Mayor Wu allocated $34.3 million in the FY24-FY28 capital plan for repairing and renovating the city’s pools.

“This investment is critical to addressing the alarming number of youth – in particular minority youth –  who cannot swim,” said Marta E. Rivera, Commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth & Families. “We welcome our aquatics partners to join us in providing free lessons across the city.”

In May, Boston will host USA Swimming for a series of events to mark International Water Safety Day, a day dedicated to spreading global awareness about the risks of drowning and importance of water safety education. Activities will include visits by former Olympic swimmers to Boston Public Schools, a water safety fair at a BCYF Pool, and instructional programming for BCYF swim team participants. Water safety information will be shared with Boston Public Schools families, all to highlight the importance of water safety during the summer months.

Because of a collaboration between Boston Public Schools, Boston Centers for Youth & Families, the Public Facilities Department, and the Property Management Department, investments of City funding, and improved facilities assessment, the City is on track to have more pools open this year than in previous summers, including the BCYF Clougherty, Draper, Hennigan, Marshall, Mattahunt and Perkins pools. BCYF Marshall Community Center pool opened this fall. The Draper, Hennigan, Mattahunt and Perkins are expected to be open this summer as is the Clougherty Pool, which is approaching the completion of a two-year renovation.

The City also has more opportunities for lifeguards through a residency waiver which allows the City to hire more lifeguards and the Lifeguard Preparedness Academy and hiring days that BCYF has been hosting in collaboration with the Office of Human Resources. Additionally, through the SwimSafe program, the City is providing more free swim lessons for children in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Boston (nine pools), Boys and Girls Club (four pools), Dorchester House (one pool), and USA Swimming.

There is no charge for membership or programming at BCYF centers and pools but visitors need to create a membership at Registration for classes and programs can be found on individual BCYF pools’ webpages or at

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