Around 71% of the earth is water. Give it a few more years of sea level rise and we’ll top 80, no problem.
In Louisiana, we’ve lived with water a long time. And for a lot of kids, that begins with swim lessons. At some point in nearly every child’s life, they get thrown into the deep end. It’s a good idea they know how to swim, so they don’t sink. And a staggering number of kids don’t know how to swim. A 2017 study found 65% of Black children, 45% of Hispanic children and 40% of white children don’t know how to swim.
Colleen Barczyk, founder of City of Lafayette Aquatics – better known as COLA – has been swimming against that tide for 20 years. The program began with just five swimmers in 2002 and now reaches around 250 kids children each year through competitive programs and summer swim lessons. COLA runs the Southwest Louisiana Swim League, working with high school and middle school swim teams in the area. And Colleen has been a competitive swimmer herself since she was 5 years old and is also a chiropractor with Barczyk Chiropractic Group.
If you’re scared of the ocean but not heights, then maybe the open skies are a better place for you. Lafayette is home to Acadian Aviation, one of the few full-time flight training schools in the state. The flight school was founded by Raja Gharazeddine.
Raja got his pilot’s license at 30, bought his first plane at 34 and left the restaurant business in 2007 to launch Acadian Aviation. Over the years, Raja’s students have shifted from people looking for a high-flying hobby to people looking for careers.
Acadian Aviation partners with Fort Polk to help military aviators get civilian credentials. In 2022, Raja kicked off a partnership with LSU Alexandria to offer a professional aviation program, one of only two in the state. Acadian Aviation also offers charter flight services out of Lafayette Regional Airport.
Take a lunchtime look at how we dealt with regular school over the lockdown: School 2020