Instant Swimmer Just Add Water

Rose Bowl Aquatics Center
December 20, 2023 / 3 mins read

- Vanessa Rivera-Roberts, RBAC Staff Member


The RBAC Water Safety Program, serving every 3rd grade student in Pasadena Unified, is close to my heart. I started swimming on a club team in 3rd grade. It changed my life. I learned that facing fears head-on could lead to triumph and that it was ok not to be good at softball, soccer, and dance. It gave an awkward kid (yours truly) a place to belong. The connection created with water spanned high school and college teams, and summer jobs as a lifeguard and swim instructor. And now, working on staff at the RBAC.

This program means so much to me because I know how profound it was to find a place to belong at 9 years old. Swimming gave me community. The pools became a place for laughter, encouragement, and shared accomplishments. I cannot imagine how different my life would be had I not learned to swim. If I had looked at water with fear instead of fun. I also know that the discipline acquired in those chlorinated waters spilled over into academics and other pursuits, shaping me into who I am today.

And it could have been so different...


Picture this, you are 9 years old and the shimmery surface of the swimming pool holds both fun and fear. Imagine the terror felt at swim parties, beach days, and camp. Feelings of insecurity and anxiety brought on by activities that should be fun. But instead, through circumstances outside of your control, pools, lakes, and oceans unfairly threaten your survival. Whether or not you have access to swimming lessons, let alone a pool is not a decision a child is in charge of.

At the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, we believe everyone should be water-safe because drowning - the number one cause of injury and death for children - is preventable.

The RBAC Water Safety Program provides every student enrolled in the Pasadena Unified School District with water safety education. Students receive 15 swim lessons with expert instructors. We provide everything necessary for a child to be successful, including swimsuits, goggles, towels, water safety workbooks, family swim passes, and an invitation to a celebratory family picnic. Over 25,000 students have participated in this program since its inception.


These swim lessons change lives and save lives. It is more than water safety, it is the opening of a new world. Introductory swim lessons are a turning point for many children, transforming not only their ability to navigate water but also shaping the person they become. It fosters accessibility to wellness and opens up exciting avenues for youth development through activities like diving, water polo, and swim team. These pursuits not only build a sense of community but also contribute to character development, potentially paving the way for acceptance into collegiate programs. It can rewrite the story of a child's life and create another space to learn, explore, and express themselves.

The average cost for the RBAC Water Safety Program per student is $300. We plan to reach 1,000+ students across the 2023-2024 school year alone.

This holiday season, please consider a gift to the RBAC. Gifting water safety to an eager 9 year old ready to dip their toes in the water. Gifting access to aquatic activities for those who otherwise could not afford the programs we offer. The gift of wellness and connection. Also, the opportunity to emerge water-safe, confident, and resilient. It's not just a donation; it's truly a gift that transforms lives. Please join us in supporting the RBAC Year-End Annual Campaign, and let's make waves together!

P.S. Say hello whenever you spot me in a Water Fitness class or lap swimming. And, I’m still dreaming of joining the Masters team one day…

Donate Now!

Work at the RBAC