After completing the nine-week program, divers are certified to dive up to 60 feet.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After about 100 hours of instruction and training, seven students graduated Tuesday from a free pilot program in Los Angeles aimed at getting more people of color certified in diving.
"The courses are expensive, the equipment is expensive," said Dive Master Gerald Durant. "But this is a way we can give somebody just an idea of what's going on and hopefully that will inspire them."
The course is a collaboration between the Los Angeles City Stentorians, an association of African Americans in fire service, and the Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc. or EECI. Durant is an inspector for the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the president of the Stentorians. The two organizations provided the gear and the instructors throughout the program. All they required was a basic knowledge of swimming and the willingness to learn.
"Me personally, not a lot of my peers, Black women, know how to swim," said Shannon Brailey, one of the graduating divers. "So, I think for me, personally, it was important to just show we can accomplish things that we can do things that people don't expect us to do."
After completing the nine-week program, divers are certified to dive up to 60 feet. Participants and instructors said not only does the program open eyes to a whole new world below the surface of the water, but it also opens doors to different job opportunities as well.
Rachel Rhee is a recent graduate from UCLA and she said being fresh out of college, something like this would not be in her budget. But now as she's trying to pursue a career in firefighting, earning this certification through this program will be a big help.
"Having this is an extra skill not only helps build my resume," Rhee said. "But also leaves an opportunity for maybe in the future I may want to pursue something like Swift Water Rescue or something like that."
"I'm looking forward for them telling me or emailing me saying 'Hey, I'm over in Tahiti. It's nice,'" Durant said. "So, that's what we're looking for, just to expand somebody's world."
To learn more about this program visit this website.