Meet 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador, Kami B. This Miami native’s Girl Scout Gold Award project addresses a heartbreaking statistic among children in South Florida – drownings. According to the Florida Department of Health, on average, 105 people drown in South Florida each year. 20% of those drownings are children. When you compare these averages to children living in low-income communities, the numbers only increase at a staggering rate.
Kami’s, a Silver Knight nominee in Journalism, developed South Florida Swims. Her project focuses on driving awareness for the staggering statistics and is actively making strides to prevent it by educating parents and children within our community.
The project, which includes the creation and publishing of water safety videos including hazards at home, also raises much needed funds to sponsor over 100 free swim lessons for children ages 2-7 in some of South Florida’s most at risk communities where the drowning rates overwhelmingly increase.
Tell us a little about your project
I decided to create and publish water safety videos for parents and children to bring awareness to proper supervision of various water safety hazards around the home (bathtubs and toilets), swimming pools (home and public) and beaches; in addition to teaching ways to keep children safe around these water areas. Publishing these water safety videos will make an impact on decreasing the drowning rates in South Florida. I am also raising money to sponsor 100+ free swimming lessons for children ages 2-7 in Miami-Dade County, focusing on communities that need it most including the Richmond Heights, Perrine and Goulds communities- so that they can have this important life skill. I have raised enough money for 100 lessons thus far. I am focusing on children in African American and Latino communities due to the overwhelming drowning and near drowning rates of children from these communities.
How will your project live on once complete? The knowledge given in the water safety videos to parents and children will be forever used and the swimming life skill given to the children will be forever practiced. Hopefully the children who learn how to swim will pass the skill down to their children and create a new generation of competent swimmers.
What gave you the inspiration for your project?
I was inspired to approach my water safety project by making videos because of the ongoing pandemic. South Florida was in quarantine. There were reports in the news that drowning cases were on the rise. The goal was to create videos that would engage parents and children to learn more about different water safety hazards and how to properly supervise their children while they're at home.
Why is this project important to you, personally?
My siblings and I learned how to swim before the age of two, so for us swimming is second nature. But two years ago, I started to hear a lot of news stories about children and teenagers drowning in my community. This peaked my curiosity to find
out how often drownings occur amongst children. So, I did some research and was shocked to discover the statistics that plague South Florida’s youth. It has the highest drowning rates for children ages 2-7. 64% of African American children have little to no swimming skills. African American and Latino children ages 5 - 19 drown in swimming pools at a rate 5.5 times higher than those of white children in the same age range. Then I learned that most drownings occur within 5 minutes of being unsupervised.
I wanted to make a difference by bringing awareness to South Florida water hazards and how to properly supervise children to prevent drownings. South Florida is surrounded by many forms of water, learning how to swim should be a skill all children have an opportunity to learn regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. Not to mention, swimming is also an important life skill that's fun and good exercise.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame and how?
The current Covid-19 pandemic caused significant delays. Filming sites including local swimming pools and beaches were closed. The need for follow ups increased as the numbers of local COVID cases increased. I also had to keep delaying free swimming lessons as a result of COVID regulations.
The need to be flexible and adjust scheduling as needed allowed me to overcome these challenges as we identified new locations and as the original sites opened up. The delays afforded me the opportunity to dedicate time to fully hone and flesh out the topics covered in my water safety video series. I furthered my education on the topic and became certified as an American Red Cross Water Safety Ambassador. I subsequently mapped out every detail of my videos so that when sites reopen I can film safely and get all the footage I needed. I even used this time to find ways to fundraise money for my goal of 100+ free swimming lessons. I was fortunate to meet a wonderful woman, Shannon Decker, who sponsored 50 children to receive free swimming lessons. With guidance from family members, we approached Commissioner Moss of Miami Dade County District 9 and he donated $1,000 to help fund free swimming lessons through my project, as well.
How does this project contribute to your goals for the future? As an aspiring film producer, I want to make changes in my community through film projects. My water safety video series gave me the motivation and confidence to pursue my passion and fulfill my purpose in a career in film and production. My project helped me develop skills, such as creating story boards, scripts, directing and editing, all aspects of film editing that I hope to have an opportunity to hone during my college career.
What did you learn about your community in this process?
I learned that there are members of my community that are willing to dedicate their time to help others. The people I met at Miami Dade County Parks and Miami Beach Ocean Rescue were more than willing to provide me with the resources I needed to make my project happen. Also, people were generous to donate to my project because they understood the need to reduce children drownings and the passion I had for my project.
What did you learn about YOURSELF?
I learned that I have the ability to make my vision come to life. Nothing is impossible. Whatever knowledge or skills I don't know I am willing to learn and can affectively spread the knowledge that I gained.
For example to develop my water safety knowledge, I became a American Red Cross Water Safety Ambassador. I also learned that I am very good at finding alternative solutions. I am able to think out the box, do research and adjust to new environments. For example, my first interview at a public pool footage could not be used due to loud background noises. So, when I went scouted alternative locations, I was able to use the knowledge and facts I gained in my first interview and incorporate them at the new location. I also learned that I am able to compliment the people I work with. I can adjust my questions and editing to fit the personality of those who I am collaborating with.
Kami will attend Ohio State University in the fall as a Morrill Prominence Scholar and major in journalism, film & production. We look forward to watching Kami continue to grow, follow her passion and turn her once hobby into a thriving career.
Girl Scouts has made me a confident, cognizant citizen who will lead and impact the world.