Cassidy Wester has worked in aquatics since she became a lifeguard at 14 years old. Now, as Brooklyn Park’s Aquatics and Fitness specialist, she strives to make swimming accessible to people of all cultural backgrounds. That includes creating a swim class expressly for women and girls.
“Privacy curtains are hung indoors and locker room access is restricted to ensure a comfortable swimming environment for everyone. No males will be allowed within the pool area and all staff on duty are women. This swim offering is an opportunity to learn to swim from our water safety instructors, for both women and girls, as well as an opportunity for recreational open swim time for those who are interested.”
The City of Brooklyn Park is made up of approximately 60% people of color; 20% of its community members were born outside of the US.
Wester says the swim program was created to accommodate women and girls who, for religious, cultural or other factors, require women-only swimming environments. The program launched in April of this year and is in its second session. Wester says she’s working to create more such opportunities alongside regular aquatic programming. She says such efforts are key for promoting water safety.
“When we talk about barriers to swimming, cultural barriers aren't necessarily something that people think about. Right? You may think that it might be because I don't have a swimsuit, I don't have transportation to get there. Different things. Other factors that we've looked at too, is lack of cultural understanding by staff. That was something that I wanted to make sure we really honed in on before we started this class, and didn't want my female staff to just think of this as another class. Creating a safe space is really our number one priority, creating that safe space as well as that opportunity to learn to swim.”
The class is open to female identified registrants and requires modest and comfortable swimwear. Head coverings and swim hijabs are permitted; swim hijabs are also available upon request.