News and Events

NSEA Swim Free Learn to Swim Program Reaches a Milestone: 

1000 Kids Taught to Swim

[June 30, 2023]. In a remarkable achievement, the NSEA Swim Free Learn to Swim program has recently reached a significant milestone by teaching 1000 kids how to swim. This remarkable initiative, aimed at providing underprivileged children with the essential life skill of swimming, has been making waves in local communities. The program's dedication and commitment to water safety have brought joy, confidence, and invaluable skills to countless young individuals. Let's dive into the details of this momentous achievement and explore the impact it has had on the lives of these children.

Empowering Kids through Water Safety

The NSEA Swim Free Learn to Swim program was established with the mission of ensuring that every child, regardless of their background or financial situation, has the opportunity to learn how to swim. Water safety is a crucial skill that can save lives and open doors to a variety of recreational activities. Unfortunately, many children from diverse communities lack access to proper swimming lessons and resources.

Recognizing this gap, the NSEA Swim program has been actively working to bridge it. By offering free swimming lessons, the program aims to empower children with the knowledge and confidence to stay safe in and around the water. In addition to teaching fundamental swimming techniques, the program emphasizes the importance of water safety rules, responsible behavior, and teamwork.

While the NSEA Swim program has already achieved an incredible milestone, its journey is far from over. With the continued support of the community, the program aims to expand its reach and impact, ensuring that even more children have the opportunity to learn how to swim and stay safe in the water.

As we celebrate this milestone, let us acknowledge the dedication and passion of those involved in the program's success. Through their efforts, the NSEA Swim program has proven that by working together, we can make a positive difference in the lives of our children and communities.

As the program looks ahead to the future, its continued expansion promises to bring the gift of swimming to even more children, enabling them to embrace new opportunities and unlock their potential in and out of the water.



NSEA Swim Receives 2023 Grant Funding From USA Swimming Foundation  

Grant supports efforts to offer free or reduced-cost swim lessons


[Wilmington, NC] – NSEA Swim was chosen as one of 69 youth programs from the USA Swimming Foundation’s nationwide network of swim lesson providers to receive grant money in early 2023. The grant award will go toward NSEA Swim’s continued efforts to provide free or reduced-cost swim lessons. The USA Swimming Foundation has awarded a total of $647,522 to programs across the country.

“We are so honored to be chosen for this award,”  Director of Aquatics, Mia Croom said. “The money we received will be put toward our goal of increasing access to our advanced Learn to Swim levels and offering more programs for teens.”   

Partnered with the City of Wilmington and the American Red Cross Centennial Program, NSEA Swim seeks to reduce drowning rates and provide healthy opportunities for our surrounding community through free swim lessons, water safety education opportunities, and affordable access to the Earl Jackson swimming pool in the Northside neighborhood.  In the summer of 2020, NSEA Swim began offering no-cost swim lessons via volunteers from their competitive swim team; in 2021 they hired 2 dedicated lesson instructors for year-round programming.  Swimmers enter the program each quarter and complete 8-12 lessons prior to taking a skills test to advance to the next level.  


The USA Swimming Foundation vetted more than 345 applications through a competitive annual review process and chose 69 youth and 35 adult programs to receive funding. 

“The USA Swimming Foundation is thrilled to provide funding to 104 swim lesson providers across 29 states,” USA Swimming Foundation Senior Director of Development Elaine Calip said. “Over 14,000 individuals will now have the opportunity to learn the lifesaving skill of water safety across the country. We owe a tremendous thank you to our partners and donors who continue to make a difference in our mission of saving lives and building champions.”

Millions of individuals have received the lifesaving gift of swim lessons through the USA Swimming Foundation’s network of swim lesson providers, comprised of more than 1,500 qualified lesson providers across the nation. To learn more, visit

Click here for a full list of 2023 USA Swimming Foundation grant recipients. Click here to donate to the Foundation.

Endowment funding for NSEA Swim provides access for those historically left out

December 9, 2022

[Wilmington, NC] A new bubble for the Earl Jackson Pool in Northside Wilmington represents more than an improved swimming facility. This investment by the New Hanover County Endowment will help lift a community in need, provide opportunities for children previously not thinkable and continue to integrate a long-segregated sport in Wilmington.

The Endowment announced today it has awarded $75,000 to NSEA Swim, the nonprofit working with the City of Wilmington to bring programming and water education to the public pool. The funds will replace the bubble over the pool which allows year-round activities. 

“We so appreciate the Endowment’s faith in us to continue to provide these opportunities to the residents of the Northside,” said David Witmer, president of NSEA Swim. “With the bubble in place, we can continue to work with the City to teach children and adults to swim and open up competition avenues for children who historically have had no opportunity to participate in this sport.”

Through NSEA Swim, African-American children and adults are taught to swim, addressing a glaring disparity in our community and society at large. Drowning is among the leading causes of death of young African-Americans, which is often directly tied to lack of opportunity to learn to swim and become comfortable in water. Many members of this community carry a fear of water into their adult life, adversely impacting leisure and cultural opportunities many others take for granted.

The bubble will allow for year-round training and competition, providing young African-Americans a chance to participate on swim teams and earn scholarships at colleges and universities. The expanded water access is also a place for swim teams from the overall Wilmington community to compete and practice, thus integrating historically segregated communities by reducing fear and stigma.

“The bubble is so needed for the physical swimming pool,” Witmer said, “but the impact goes beyond facility improvements. This bubble is a door opening opportunities for children who previously were left out, improving their outlook and improving the outlook for all of us.”

NSEA Swim completes summer lesson program with help from grant from the Step Into Swim organization

[Wilmington, NC]: NSEA Swim has completed the free summer lessons program with $7,500 of funding from Step Into Swim. The mission of Step Into Swim, to create more swimmers, closely aligns with the mission of NSEA Swim.  "By investing in the next generation of swimmers through learn-to-swim programming in underserved communities, the Step Into Swim initiative - with support from Every Child A Swimmer - works to instill confidence; empower long-term participation in water activities; tout the positive benefits of water play; and advocate for safe practices in and around the water." 

We can’t thank the Step into Swim program enough. With their help, we have been able to program our pool all summer and continue to teach our free swim lessons to our community.,” said David Witmer, President of NSEA Swim.

With the support of Step Into Swim, the NSEA Swim Foundation provided free swim lessons for 115 children.   Two-thirds of children enrolled in the Learn to Swim levels of the program completed enough competencies to advance to the next level of lessons.

About Step Into Swim: With Olympic medalist Rowdy Gaines at the helm, Step Into Swim has invested in the next generation of swimmers and supports learn-to-swim programs that provide children (and their families) of all ages and backgrounds with the lifesaving skill of learning to swim. Step Into Swim helps extend a safe and healthy pool experience to underserved communities through free access to swimming lessons.  Since 2012, Step Into Swim has funded swimming lessons for more than 285,000 children across the country and continues to make an impact where it matters. 

NSEA Swim is in the news again!  

Read about our amazing program in the July 2022 edition of Wrightsville Beach Magazine

NSEA Swim Receives Grant from Cape Fear Collective

Funds Will Benefit a Scholarship Program for Disadvantaged Youth

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County is providing $700,000 to 30 local nonprofits that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, through funding from the American Rescue Plan. The funding awards will be used to mitigate financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will support payroll and benefit costs, costs to retain employees, mortgage, rent or utilities costs and other operating expenses for the nonprofits.

“I am so glad we are able to assist 30 of our nonprofit partners, who continue to work tirelessly and with incredible passion to meet some of the greatest needs in our community,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. “Their work has been vital throughout the pandemic. They have changed their service delivery models to fit the needs of residents in these trying times and remained a constant for so many who have needed their help. Their resources, support and services will continue to be critical as we experience the pandemic’s long-term impacts; and New Hanover County is committed to helping them fulfill their missions and continue their important work to make a difference in our community and the lives of everyone who lives here.”

The county partnered with Cape Fear Collective to administer the funding applications and form an awards committee made up of local community members to review the applications and determine the organizations that met the award criteria and demonstrated the greatest need.

The awards committee included Mebane Boyd, Sharm Brantley, Evelyn Bryant, Joe Conway, Ashley Daniels, Chris Teeter, and Rebecca Trammel.

“Being a part of this process, as a community member, was humbling, heartfelt, and exciting,” said committee member Joe Conway. “So many organizations achieve groundbreaking work and use innovation to accomplish what may seem like the impossible. As one person on this team, I sincerely value this experience and knowledge gained about how our county leaders endeavor to put action behind mitigating disparities within this community.”

Funding awards are based on need and between $10,000 and $50,000 per organization. NSEA Swim is one of many local organizations that will be receiving county ARP funding.

American Red Cross and NSEA Swim Join Forces to Reduce Drowning


Children and adults learning to swim is key to creating ‘ecosystem of water safety’


WILMINGTON, NC (October 19, 2021) - In an expansion of a national multi-year campaign to reduce drownings, NSEA Swim (Northside Elite Aquatics) in partnership with the City of Wilmington has joined the American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Campaign.


“The goal of the American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Campaign is to create an ‘ecosystem of water safety’ in order to reduce drownings in communities where there are high numbers of drownings or drowning rates that are higher than the national average,” said James Jarvis, Executive Director, American Red Cross Cape Fear Area Chapter. “We collaborate with Red Cross aquatics training providers like NSEA Swim to make swim lessons and water safety training available, accessible and affordable to areas of their communities that were not getting this lifesaving training.”


According to the CDC, in the United States, more children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. For children ages 1 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes. In the state of North Carolina, 106 people died from drowning and another 315 received emergency department care for non-fatal drowning in 2019, the latest reporting year available.


“NSEA Swim is proud to join forces with the American Red Cross to be a part of the Aquatics Centennial Campaign. With the additional resources this partnership provides, we can offer more swim lessons and water safety education opportunities to our community. It also allows us to build upon our current offerings and expand into lifeguard training and other essential water safety training. This partnership is a big step in the right direction toward preventing drowning events and making our entire community water safe,” said Dr. Philip Brown, Board President, NSEA Swim.


“Our organization is deeply grateful to Mayor Bill Saffo, the Wilmington City Council, city management staff, and the citizens of our community who believed in us and made this program a reality,” added Dr. Brown.


Aquatics Centennial Campaign by the Numbers

The Red Cross campaign began in 2014 in recognition of 100 years of Red Cross swimming safety education. The campaign was initially planned as a 5-year initiative serving 50 communities. Due to the positive response, the campaign is continuing and expanding beyond those initial programs into other communities where the need is great.


Through August 2021, national campaign milestones include:


With the help of campaign sponsors and through local training providers, the Red Cross is able to help provide swim lessons, as well as junior lifeguard, lifeguard and swim instructor training, at little or no cost in these communities. This effort also helps educate parents, children and teens so that everyone stays as safe as possible as they enjoy time in and around the water.


“The best way to reduce drowning is to prevent dangerous situations from happening in the first place,” added Jarvis. “Parents and caregivers are also learning what to do when things go wrong, including how to help someone in trouble in the water without getting into danger themselves and how to perform CPR and use an AED.”


Individuals can register for swim lessons, water safety programming, and certifications by visiting the NSEA Swim website ( and clicking on Program Signup. We offer free swim lessons for children of all ages, adult learn-to-swim classes, and pre-school-focused Parent and Child lessons. Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor Certification courses are offered for a fee. For more information about lessons or how to register, email


People can learn about actions they can take to help make themselves and their families safer in and around water at Additional information on the Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Campaign, including a video, is available at


NSEA Swim (Northside Elite Aquatics):

NSEA Swim is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to improving water safety in the coastal community of Wilmington, NC. The organization began with a group of experienced coaches, talented swimmers, and dedicated parents who wanted more for our community. Our nonprofit aims to increase water safety, prevent drowning, improve fitness, and decrease obesity. We also plan to increase multicultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in the sport of swimming. For more information about NSEA Swim, visit or


About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.


NSEA Swim Foundation Receives Grant Funding for Summer Swim Programming

Live Oak Bank, Surfrider Foundation, and North Carolina Community Foundation Support Swimclusion 2021


The NSEA Swim Foundation is pleased to announce the receipt of grant funding for the Swimclusion 2021 program from one local corporation and two North Carolina foundations. With these monetary donations, NSEA Swim can provide programs that are more inclusive, as well as programs that increase water safety and prevent unnecessary drowning in our community.


Live Oak Bank


On June 11, 2021, Live Oak Bank announced a donation for $29,000 to the NSEA Swim Foundation to run the Swimclusion 2021 Summer Program. The Wilmington-based Bank was one of NSEA Swim’s initial supporters when NSEA Swim was forming its swim lessons program and has helped fund the group’s growth. Live Oak Bank’s grant will continue to fund inclusive swim confidence programming throughout the year and allow NSEA Swim to extend and open the Earl Jackson pool full time for community use during the summer.


“We are excited to have this special opportunity from Live Oak Bank to not only continue to share water safety and swim confidence with our community, but also share the joy of swimming and summer fun with children and families,” said Thomas Hill, NSEA Swim Board member.


The Surfrider Foundation


On July 7, 2021, the Surfrider Foundation announced a $5,000 grant donation to the NSEA Swim Foundation to fund an additional instructor at the Northside’s Earl Jackson pool this summer. The Surfrider Foundation Cape Fear Chapter is partnering with NSEA Swim to provide free swim lessons to prepare for safe and fun learning on, in, and about the ocean. The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network. Surfrider hopes to facilitate surf lessons and ecological education for children and adults who might not otherwise have access to them.


Maia Dery, the local Surfrider Chair of Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Surf JEDI) said, “The ocean is a place where people can find solace, empowerment, and unending waves of fun! We in the Cape Fear region have some work to do to overcome the legacy of historical barriers to water-based recreation. The Cape Fear Chapter is looking for ways to make our local beaches safe, welcoming, and accessible to our entire community.”


By partnering with NSEA Swim, Dery said, the Surfrider Foundation can ensure people are water-safe before entering the ocean. NSEA Swim and Surfrider plan to expand this partnership in the next year.


The North Carolina Community Foundation – 1898 Memorial Fund


On July 9, 2021, the NSEA Swim Foundation received a $2,210 grant as support from the 1898 Memorial Fund, a component fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation. The 1898 Memorial Fund supports race relations work in the Cape Fear region. NSEA Swim received the grant based on our work to increase diversity in the Wilmington swim community and provide free swim lessons to youth and adults.


“NSEA Swim is honored by the 1898 Memorial Fund recognition of our work in race relations,” said Dr. Philip Brown, NSEA Swim Board Vice President, and Chief Community Impact Officer at Novant Health. “In the beginning, we launched our group with the intent of increasing multicultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in the sport of swimming. By creating a safe, supportive environment where all people belonged, we made a statement of belief that neither the color of a person’s skin nor any other physical characteristics should stand in the way of learning to swim and being safe around the water.”


“Through this important work,” Brown continued, “we realized how new and deep relationships among diverse groups of people were enriching us all in immeasurable ways. This once small program has turned into a movement that sets a shining example of humanity at its finest, in a community where we still have much healing to do.”


NSEA Swim is a USA-Swimming affiliated competitive swim club and nonprofit that donates its time, skills, and pool facilities toward drowning prevention and water safety in our community. Although no child can ever be water safe, the goal is to make children in our community safer through a three-step process. Step One is to educate the community on the importance of swim lessons. Step Two is to increase participation by offering quality swim lessons to every child in the community at no cost. Step Three is to align with community partners to share the message of water safety.


For more information about NSEA Swim, contact Lisa Hill, NSEA Swim Director of Communications, at

NSEA Swim Receives 2021 Grant Funding From

USA Swimming Foundation  


Grant supports efforts to offer free or reduced-cost swim lessons


NSEA Swim was chosen as one of 67 from the USA Swimming Foundation’s nationwide network of swim lesson providers to receive grant money in early 2021. The grant award will go toward NSEA Swim’s continued efforts to provide free or reduced-cost swim lessons. The USA Swimming Foundation has awarded a total of $507,618 to programs across the country who will provide swim lessons to an estimated 13,800 children.


“We are thrilled to receive this funding to use toward developing our swim programming for the community,” said Dave Witmer, Board President. “NSEA Swim has plans to teach 200 individuals basic water safety this year, and this grant award will help us reach this goal.”


Operating since 2018, NSEA Swim is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Wilmington, NC, that conducts year-round swim lessons in the Earl Jackson pool in Wilmington. NSEA Swim continues to expand its reach in the community to save lives through lessons and water safety programming. The group also is actively working on increasing multicultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in the sport of swimming with an inclusive environment at all levels of the sport. Currently, NSEA Swim’s competitive swim team is one of the most diverse swim teams in North Carolina.

The USA Swimming Foundation vetted 243 applications through a competitive annual review process and chose 67 programs to receive funding.

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that USA Swimming Foundation funding will be used to create a valuable swimming experience for thousands of children who may not have had the opportunity to learn how to swim,” Scott Usher, Director of Development for the USA Swimming Foundation said. “We are thrilled with the depth of this year’s swim lesson provider applicant pool and we couldn’t be prouder to support these life-saving opportunities for children across the country. We owe a tremendous thank you to our partners and donors who continue to make a difference in our mission of saving lives and building champions.”


Millions of children have received the lifesaving gift of swim lessons through the USA Swimming Foundation’s network of swim lesson providers, comprised of more than 1,500 qualified lesson providers across the nation. Since 2007, more than $6 million has been awarded in learn-to-swim grants. To learn more, visit


For a full list of 2021 USA Swimming Foundation grant recipients or to donate to the Foundation, please visit


NSEA Swim's William Forbes Creates Passion Project with Voyage

William Forbes, a member of the NSEA Swim Sea Devils, just fulfilled a passion. He worked with Voyage, a nonprofit in the Northside neighborhood of Wilmington, to create a raised garden in the Northside neighborhood.

William is passionate about addressing food security and contributing toward efforts to provide equitable access to healthy food to this neighborhood. For the last two weeks of school, William, a third grade student at Cape Fear Center for Inquiry, was assigned to do a passion project for school. His goal was to learn or do something in which he was deeply interested.

Beth Forbes, William's mother, said, "In our house, remote learning has been filled with carpentry and gardening. He asked Voyage if he could build a garden for them to complete his project."

The Northside is located in what's known as a food desert, an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. His project was to build a second raised garden bed from the ground up so that local neighbors could have easy access to produce. Voyage will also be able to use the produce to provide free healthy cooking and nutrition workshops.

Voyage's Director Genna Wirth said, "William showed true leadership skills and led some of our Voyagers in building a second garden bed outside of the Hemenway Center." 

"We met the Forbes family through our partnership with NSEA Swim last summer, and like many others in the NSEA Swim family, the Forbes have consistently jumped to get involved with Voyage any chance they got." She went on to thank William and his sister Abby and mother Beth for always supporting the community. 

Voyage is an nonprofit organization that operates under the mission of connecting youth with pathways to success.Their ultimate goal is to create a sustainable replicable model that ensures the development of strong, self-sufficient families within communities that value and nurture our children and youth and fully prepare them for lifelong success.

NSEA Swim Contest: Swimmers Reenacting Pool Activities at Home

NSEA Swim hosted a fun contest for its swim groups -- reenact the swimming experience from home. Our competitive swimmers submitted a variety of videos and photos. View the winners below. A big thank you to all the swimmers for the creativity and hard work!


1st Place

Olivia King

Sallie Brown.mp4

2nd Place

Sallie Brown


3rd Place

Emmie Backman

NSEA Swim Achieves Status as Safe Sport Recognized Club

On January 17, 2020, NSEA Swim earned USA Swimming’s new Safe Sport Club Recognition. Out of more than 80 swim clubs in North Carolina, only 13 clubs have been designated as Safe Sport. USA Swimming clubs can earn a Safe Sport designation by demonstrating a commitment to creating safe, healthy, and positive environments for all members. They accomplish this by developing and implementing athlete protection policies, Safe Sport best practices, and Safe Sport education.

In order to earn Safe Sport status, NSEA Swim implemented policies, procedures, and best practices for protecting athletes. In addition, the club demonstrated screening and hiring procedures, highlighted communication efforts to report misconduct, and urged the club's minor athletes and parents to complete online courses.

Board President Dave Witmer explains how the designation sets us apart from the majority of swim organizations in North Carolina. "Most of the other teams on this list are the elite programs in North Carolina. This is a huge deal for our competitive swim club and for our mission as a community outreach program."

According to USA Swimming, the organization's top priority is to keep athletes safe. The Safe Sport policies were put in place to abolish all types of abuse, including child sexual abuse. Towards that end, USA Swimming created the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is a separate, independent, organization that oversees all sexual misconduct reports in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. This organization created a baseline, called the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies, to identify acceptable safety standards limiting one-on-one interactions between adults and minor athletes.

NSEA Swim is a year-round swim club in Wilmington, NC, that formed late in 2018. The team swims competitively in USA Swimming meets locally, regionally, and state-wide. Its swimmers range in age from five to 16 years and include swimmers of all abilities, from beginners to highly competitive swimmers ranked state-wide. The team’s mission is to increase multicultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity in the sport of swimming by fostering an inclusive environment at all levels of the sport. Our goal is to build a sport community where participants can work and learn together in a safe, supportive environment.

For more information about USA Swimming's Safe Sport Recognized Club program information, visit For further details about NSEA Swim, contact Lisa Hill, Communications Director, at

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