Sorority founded in Indianapolis makes history with sponsorship of international swimming competition

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Swimmers from nearly 100 countries are in Indianapolis trying to make their Olympic dreams come true. They're competing in the FINA World Junior Championships in hopes of representing their country in the 2020 Olympics.

But in the midst of the competition, history is being made.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. is a primarily black sorority, founded right here in Indianapolis and this year the organization is the presenting sponsor for the swimming competition.

Sigma Gamma Rho is the first minority organization to be presenting sponsors for the event.  They began their partnership with USA Swimming five years ago and with the help of a few Olympians they're using this opportunity to save lives.

"Attempt to attack the devastating drowning rates of African Americans in the united states because so many of our people don't know how to swim. At the time of our engagement 70% of African Americans in the U.S. did not know how to swim and we have a drowning rate that's three times higher than other races," Sigma Gamma Rho, International President, Deborah Catchings-Smith said.

They even teamed up with notable Olympians like Maritza McClendon who was the first black woman to make a U.S. Olympic swim team in 2004. Maritza is also a member of the sorority and serves as the spokeswoman for their Swim 1922 campaign.

"One of the first things I said when I made the Olympic team was I'm proud to be the first but I definitely don't want to be the last," McClendon said.

Gold medalist Cullen Jones is also a trailblazer and now cheering other minority competitors on.

"It's not only a lifesaving skill but it's something that can keep us healthy. It's so multifaceted there's so many different ways swimming is important so it's my way of giving back not only to my sport but also to my community," Jones said.

This weekend the sorority will get families involved starting with getting mom's in the pool for a swim clinic in hopes the skill is passed down. To learn more about the Swim 1922 campaign click here.