Blog Entry Youth Development, Economic Opportunity, Capacity Building

October 2016 SBV Spotlight: Tracy Caldron, MUSA

This month’s skills-based volunteer program spotlight focuses on Tracy Caldron, Founder and President MUSA Swim, which was established in 2015 to improve life outcomes for youth living in under-resourced areas. MUSA teaches high school males of color to swim, provides lifeguard certification and places program graduates in high paying aquatics jobs during the summer months. MUSA also intends to create and establish opportunities for youth to pursue training, education and employment designed to place them on the path to economic self-sufficiency.

On more than one occasion, Tracy has been asked the question: Why swimming? Her succinct and multi-tiered response has always been the same:

​"The process of learning to swim and earning lifeguard certification teaches discipline, responsibility, builds character and develops leadership skills," she says. "These life skills will support academic success and increase high school graduation rates of the MUSA participants."

According to the CDC, drowning is the second cause of unintentional death for African and Latino youth.  Between 2001 and 2010, nationally 3,707 Black and Latino youth under the age of 18 died from drowning, including 121 deaths in New York, 80% of the victims were male. Teaching youth to swim reduces the chances of drowning drastically and it also promotes positive attitudes towards swimming as well as health and wellness benefits.

In NYC, the unemployment rate for Black and Latino male teens is 57% and 41% respectively. Achieving a lifeguard certification will make participants eligible for high paying job opportunities. Certified lifeguards earn on average, $13-$30 per hour, significantly higher than the minimum wage and far above the rate most teenagers earn.  The demand for certified lifeguards in NYC is extremely high in the summer months, when hundreds of camps are in session and required to have certified lifeguards on staff (one lifeguard for each group of 25 campers) to be allowed to swim at public pools. There are also private camps and swim programs as well as beaches that hire lifeguards in the summer.  However, lifeguard employment opportunities extend past the summer months, as lifeguards are needed at indoor pool facilities all year long as well.

MUSA's first program will begin in October 2016 at the FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety located in the East New York section of Brooklyn. So, when Tracy learned of opportunity to receive valuable capacity-building resources from JPMorgan Chase employees pro bono through the skill-based volunteer program, her entrepreneurial instincts kicked-in. She jumped at the chance.

Below, Tracy tells CBMA about her experience working with skills-based volunteers. 

What motivated you to participate in the skills-based volunteer program?

TC: I welcomed the opportunity to participate in the skills-based volunteer program with open arms to utilize the skills of others. Starting a non-profit agency requires expertise and knowledge in a variety of areas, some of these areas were completely foreign to me and I was unsure where I should start. The Chase volunteers were not only experts in areas such as website and logo design they were passionate about helping me to bring my program idea to fruition.  

What has been your experience thus far with skills-based volunteering?

TC: My experience with the skills-based volunteer program has been amazing!  I met and worked with great people who were able to complete my projects in a timely manner. Thanks to the website construction project and the proposal template project that were completed by volunteers, MUSA now has a great website and promotional material as a result of this initiative, and we saved a total of $27,000. In addition to the professional-level work, the volunteers were supportive and extremely responsive to my needs.

Do you foresee any long-term benefits from the skills-based volunteer program?

TC: Absolutely! Our website has generated a lot of traffic in just a few weeks of its development and will continue to do so in the future. As MUSA moves forward we will continue to use this promotional tool in a variety of ways to connect with new and existing supporters as well as share our success.  


blog Education

Milwaukee Schools Shine a Light on Its Young Men of Color

In this article, CBMA previews its forthcoming Promise of Place report by highlighting its ongoing partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), featuring interviews with both the district's Superintendent and its Director of the Department of Black and Latino Male Achievement.