Shrieks of excitement echoed through the Calderon Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio, where 100 children gathered on Tuesday for the first day of water safety camp.

Leading one line to get into the pool was 5-year-old Elena, who stared at the water cautiously while tugging at her braided pigtails as her friends eagerly dipped their hands into the pool water to check its temperature. She had only been swimming twice, she said, and “it was a very long time ago.”

Lack of access to swimming pools means minority children are far less likely to know how to swim than their white counterparts, said Angie Mock, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio. Recent national data from the USA Swimming Foundation shows that 64 percent of black children and 45 percent of Hispanic children possess poor swimming ability, compared to 40 percent of white children, putting them at greater risk of drowning.

“Every summer, unfortunately, we hear horrendous stories about kids drowning, and not only are they drowning in swimming pools, but drowning due to high rains and flash flooding in drainage areas,” Mock said.

To teach children how to enjoy the water safely, camps like the one at the Calderon pool on San Antonio’s West Side are sponsored by the ZAC Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting water safety and education.

The instruction includes fundamental swim training, how to avoid drowning risks in pools and natural bodies of water, and lifesaving skills such as basic CPR and how to recognize the signs of drowning. Area first responders also educate children about how to remain safe when heavy rains create dangerous conditions in their neighborhoods.