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Mayor Wu Announces Expansion of Swim Safe Program Through Grant Opportunity

Boston to invest $250,000 in funding to provide year-round support for free swim lessons, with applications now open for partner organizations.

Today, Mayor Michelle Wu, the City of Boston’s Human Services Cabinet, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families announced applications are now open for Swim Safe Boston grants to support non-profit organizations in Boston that provide free aquatics programming to residents. The grant funding follows a successful launch of the Swim Safe program announced this summer. Demand for free swim lessons has been high, demonstrating the need for an expansion of the Swim Safe campaign. Through these grants, the city is allocating additional funding to offer year-round capacity, especially for beginner-level swim lessons. 

Additionally, 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.

“Swimming is a life skill that goes beyond the summer months, so we’re thrilled to be able to expand the Swim Safe lessons year-round,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I encourage all community partners offering aquatics programming to apply for these grants so we can continue growing this successful initiative. By eliminating financial barriers to lessons and investing in our pool facilities, we’re making Boston a safer, more fun place for families.”

Interested Swim Safe grant applicants should carefully review the application materials and fill out this form to be considered for a Swim Safe grant. Awardees must be non-profit organizations that operate aquatics facilities that are located in the City of Boston. The maximum award that will be considered for this opportunity is $150,000. The grant application will close at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 15, 2023. 

Swim Safe is part of Mayor Wu’s Connect, Learn, Explore: Commitment to Youth, a commitment to giving Boston youth an opportunity to explore and discover their passions. The funding to support swim instruction builds off the Mayor’s commitment to ensure all Boston kids learn to swim and can safely enjoy our City’s coastline and pools.

“The Swim Safe Boston grant program will help ensure that our partners have year-round support to help meet the high demand for swim lessons in Boston,” said Human Services Chief José F. Massó. “We are excited to see so much enthusiasm for swimming and we want to continue the momentum generated this summer into the school-year.”

As a coastal city with numerous pools and natural bodies of water, Boston families have an array of opportunities to enjoy water recreation. Swim Safe is focused on removing barriers to water access and increasing safety among Boston residents. 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). 

The City of Boston is seeking to remedy this disparity by investing in swim lessons, repairing the city’s public pools, and recruiting and training lifeguards to staff the city’s pools. The grant program announced today will be available to organizations that operate pools in Boston and have experience offering programming to the public. Swim lessons will be prioritized for funding, though other free aquatics programming is also eligible for Swim Safe grant support. 

"I’m a mom of five year old twin boys and grateful for the opportunity to get them comfortable and safe in the water," said Elizabeth Lendor, whose twin boys are learning to swim at BCYF Hennigan Community Center. "With paid swim programs at capacity in and around the City of Boston, it’s nothing short of a miracle that we were able to get a spot for both boys and for free!"

“Boston Centers for Youth & Families is excited to be able to offer funding to support our aquatics partners across the city,” said Marta E. Rivera, Commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth & Families. “Together, we operate pools in every neighborhood and will use this partnership to offer free and accessible aquatics programming to Boston’s families.” 

The City of Boston is working across departments to renovate several of our city-owned pools, following years of disinvestment. Over the last 3 months, the City has reopened the BCYF Paris Street Pool in East Boston and the BCYF Hennigan Pool in Jamaica Plain. The BCYF Paris Street Pool reopening was the result of a $10.2 million investment, featuring an open, airy main entrance and lobby, fully renovated changing rooms, a new pool filter room, mechanical and electrical upgrades, building interior and exterior repairs, and other upgrades making it a more inviting and user-friendly space. More on the status of our City pools can be found here.


The Human Services cabinet oversees six departments that provide direct services to Boston residents: Boston Centers for Youth & Families, Boston Public Library, Age Strong Commission, Office of Youth Engagement & Advancement, Office of Returning Citizens and the Office of Veterans’ Services.  The mission of the Human Services cabinet is to provide equitable access to high quality services, resources, and opportunities so that every Boston resident - especially those with the greatest needs - has what they need to thrive. In pursuit of this mission, the departments in the Human Services Cabinet meet residents where they are - in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities - to break down barriers to critical resources.


Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) is the City of Boston’s largest youth and human service agency. BCYF operates 35 community centers in Boston that offer a variety of engaging and enriching programs for people of all ages created through community input and need. BCYF also oversees many citywide programs.


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