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This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE


Cullen Jones

Age: 27

Place of Residence:

Why he is a local hero: Jones is working to make sure African-American and Latino kids learn how to swim in an effort to save lives.

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It’s hard to believe that the first Black man to win an Olympic gold medal for swimming and only the second Black man to compete in swimming for an Olympic team almost drowned when he was 5 years old.

But it’s true.

Jones was out for a family fun day with his parents at a Pennsylvania water park, when a giant inner tube that he rode down a slide in with his parents overturned in the water. Listening to his father’s instructions, he held on to the tube and found himself at the bottom of the pool with his life slipping away. He had to be resusitated.

“I remember how it feels to get lightheaded and that terrible feeling that you are drowning,” he told me in an interview in 2010.

Olympic Medalist Tries To Prevent Black Kids From Drowning  was originally published on