FPD: Swim lessons for new Americans aimed to combat high drowning rate

Published: Dec. 13, 2019 at 9:06 PM CST
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A June 2018 drowning of an 8-year-old girl at Buffalo State Park sparked Fargo Police to host free swimming lessons for new American families in the metro.

After finding out that 80 percent of recent drowning victims in the area had been new Americans, Cultural Liaison Officer Vince Kempf says he knew something had to change.

"Their swimming rate is much lower than the general population, which is about 80-85 percent. Whereas the new Americans, about 49 to 50 percent know how to swim," Kempf said.

And since January, FPD have been hosting the lessons at various aquatic centers around the metro.

"They should have the skills so if they find themselves in water that's above their head, that they should be able to make it to shore," Kempf said.

Fully funded by Sammons Financial, Kempf says officers pick up the kids and their families at their homes in a FPD community bus, and bring them back once the lessons are done.

Kempf says by the end, the kids have spent four hours in and around the pool.

"By the end of it, all of them are swimming around, understand that you can bob to save your life to get air, and some of them are diving off the diving boards at the last class," Kempf said.

"They teached us how to like, lay on your back and then swim," Neema, an 8-year-old recent swim lesson participant said.

Kempf says so far around 100 kids have taken lessons, with another hundred in West Fargo Police's program.

"I think saving lives is the number one thing a person could do!" Kempf said.

Kempf adds he's excited the kids can now enjoy the water, and says he hopes it expands to the rest of their family members as well.

"Our goal is to save lives rather than to make competitive swimmers," Kempf said.

If you would like to sign up for future sessions, you can email Officer Kempf at

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