KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A new program aims to teach hundreds of metro kids to swim in hopes of preventing future tragedies.

13-year-old Emmanuel Solomon drowned in the city’s Parkwood Pool last summer. He was a student at Carl B. Bruce Middle School.

Following his tragic death, community leaders wanted something done in his honor.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, the Unified Government, and Kansas City, Kansas School District decided to launch a program that would provide free swimming lessons to children. The program is funded through a grant and will provides the free lessons to students who are enrolled in the Kansas City, Kansas, School District.

“Partnerships like the one we are witnessing today demonstrate positive collaboration across multiple entities within our community,” Dr. Anna Stubblefield, Superintendent of Schools, said. “The death of Emmanuel Solomon impacted our entire community. The benefits of the Learn to Swim program provide our students with water safety skills that will stay with them for a lifetime.”

The first class begins on Feb. 2, and includes 200 children age kindergarten through 6th grade who are involved in the district’s after school program.

Organizers said there are plans to expand the program to include students in middle and high school.

“We look forward to seeing the program grow and how it will lay the foundation for future lifeguards and give opportunities for young people to use their skills to benefit their community,” Angel Obert, Parks and Recreation Director for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said.

The Unified Government said it plans to reopen Parkwood Pool this summer. It will soon be hiring certified lifeguards to work at the pool.