Guest commentary: Swim program introduces Oxnard children to water

January 10, 2013

Photo by Joseph A. Garcia

Swin lessons and jobs for our youth in the Oxnard Plain. The Keys to access to water and conservation stewardship in Oxnard

By Armando Vazquez / Guest contributor

This summer the city of Oxnard has the opportunity to provide low income non-swimming youth with the opportunity of a lifetime. City officials can be the driving force in making ACCESS to water safety and recreation a reality for 200 to 400 non-swimming youth of our community. The benefit to the individual non-swimming youth is obvious, but to the beach side city of Oxnard that has a staggering 90 percent-plus non swimming low income youth population, the ACCESS water program is a radical paradigm shift.

There are a number of important water recreation, safety, health, exercise, and environmental/conservation issues that we  believe are closely interrelated and uniquely impact Oxnard’s non-swimming low income populations,  and we believe that the ACCESS to water summer swim program can create an incredible win-win situations for the entire Oxnard community.

We at the KEYS Leadership Academy @ the Café on A believe that conservation activism is directly related to educational awareness and ownership/stewardship of local conservation and environmental actions. Traditional environmental movements both local and national have often ignored unique and sensitive cultural issues affecting communities of color that prevent these communities from fully participating in the local environmental movement. Think about Ormond Beach and the potential involvement by these new swimming environmental steward of Oxnard.

One of the most glaring examples of omission by the conservation movement of the local communities of color is the notion of access/lack of access to water and the corollary and logical relationship to conservation/stewardship of beaches, rivers and waterways in the Oxnard plains. We contend that this is one issue; not a separate issue. So as a long we have 90 percent plus non swimmers in many of the communities of color in the Oxnard plains area we will have a difficult time getting all of our communities to own and become responsible stewards of the magnificent land and waterways we have locally. The communities of color toil in this magnificent agrarian and beach front community, but ironically, they have incredibly limited ownership, access and recreational usage of the public land and waterways in Oxnard.

Debbie and I have been working for a long period of time in creating accessibility to water for our KEYS Leadership Academy youth and their families, as of course, other youth in our community, as the larger macrocosm, and it has been an uphill struggle until now. The KEYS Leadership Academy has been working with the YMCA, Supervisor John Zaragoza, Clinicas del Camino Real, Oxnard city council, OSD, OUHSD, and other community organizations and leaders to create an affordable, reputable and safe learn to swim program that we call ACCESS to Water in Oxnard.

— Armando Vazquez and Debbie DeVries are the co-founders of the KEYS Leadership Academy @ the Café on A, 438 So. A St., Oxnard. Call  in Oxnard. Call 805-216-4560 or send an email to for more information.

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