Black, Gifted & Swimming! Agnes Davis Empowers Autistic Children & Gives Hope To Parents

Agnes Davis

When Agnes Davis wanted to dive into entrepreneurship, she soon learned that the African-American community had a very specific and unmet need: there aren’t many Black-owned swimming companies to teach Black children.

“I was never taught to swim by someone who looked like me, aside from my mother and sister,” Davis explained in an interview with “So when I started to research our community and how we drown at an earlier age, I was surprised. I was so far removed because I knew how to swim, but when I started looking at the statistics, I was floored.”

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Her company, swim swim swim I SAY, was born in 2008. But in 2011, a call from a desperate mother led Davis to expand her Upper Manhattan-based company even farther. The mother wanted a program that could help her special needs son. The “Our Gifted Swimmers” program was born in which Davis works with children on the autism spectrum: building their confidence, pushing them to grow in a supportive atmosphere, and eliminating the stigma associated with the term “special needs.”

Years later, the gifted program’s first student has improved so much that he is now in a group class. With his initial apprehension and fear gone, he’s usually the first student in the water.

“I’ve worked with her son for four years, and he has developed tremendously,” Davis says. “He went from barely wanting to get into the pool to now, he can float on his back and use his arms and legs. [Him and his family] recently went on a vacation to the Dominican Republic and when he came back, his face was sunburned from swimming so much.”

Agnes Davis

As Davis’ business grows, she’s learned that her students aren’t the only ones reaping a huge benefit.

“Because of fulfilling a need, I’ve been able to expand my program tenfold,” Davis says. “It’s been amazing. It’s been a great, great gift for me.”

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If you’re not in the New York area, you can still seek out a swimming instructor who is near you. Here are seven attributes to look for during your search:

1. Value Your Opinion

When it comes to sharing your thoughts with the instructor, Davis says it’s okay to be vocal.

“You know your child better than anyone so if you do seek out an instructor, help them,” she says.

2. Individual Attention

Choose one-on-one lessons first and let them graduate to a group class.

“Gifted children should be in activities, but for swimming, it should be one-on-one,” Davis says. “They need that attention.”