Long Beach Poly High swimmer Catherine Som de Cerff saw a problem and did something to improve the issue.

“I’ve noticed that some of the other schools in the (Long Beach Unified School District) have much smaller swim teams because the students who go there aren’t interested or don’t know how to swim,” Som de Cerff said. “So, I created this independent community service project to help with swim lessons to teach kids from lower income areas of Long Beach how to swim.”

Som de Cerff, 16, worked with the Aquatic Capital of America and Long Beach Parks & Recreation Department to provide scholarships for LBUSD students who can’t afford swim lessons. They start Feb. 27 at King Park Pool and Silverado Pool and run through June.

“She’s a persistent, focused young woman,” Aquatic Capital of America President Kim Onisko said. “For her to be able to coordinate the fundraising efforts and work it through the city, and we know how hard it is to work some things through the city, she was able to get everybody to pull in the same direction.”

Long Beach Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ted Stevens feels this is a “one of a kind” program considering the leadership of Som de Cerff.

“She reached out to us, so this was all her,” Stevens said. “She did the fundraising. Anytime we can provide youth with swimming lessons it’s a good thing.”

Som de Cerff was born and raised in Long Beach where she tried volleyball, soccer and other sports but always returned to swimming, which became her favorite sport. She attended Lowell Elementary, Rogers Middle School and is currently a junior at Poly.

“I just love being around the water,” she said. “There’s just so many opportunities for aquatic activities here in Long Beach. But one of the leading causes of death for children is drowning, so it’s really important for people to be water safe.”

Interested families can sign up their LBUSD students ages 6-12 on the Long Beach Parks & Recreation website where they can use the coupon code WATERPROOF for free lessons. Students over 13 must take the adult classes that are marked down to $8, and all of that is possible thanks to the scholarships organized by Som de Cerff.