Jenna L.

Gordon Family YMCA

Jackson came to us terrified of the water. He’d had a tough experience in the water – a near drowning – and his family was committed to being back in the water and being comfortable. And it was a year of him scratching me and climbing all over me as we just tried to get in three feet of water and learn what it was to get splashed in the face and to play. Now, Jackson’s on the swim team and thriving. They can’t get him out of the pool! That’s what our job is: to help kids and adults not become fearful and to know that they can be safe in the water. To watch him build trust in me and to trust the water again is incredible.

When I became a lifeguard, I thought it was people in red shirts that just stand up there and yell at everybody and don’t let you have any fun, but at the Y, members get to know their lifeguards and they often will come swimming at times when they know certain lifeguards are guarding, because they’ve made those relationships and they’ve connected with them. But those lifeguards are often their swim teachers, too, so we get to see people in multiple roles, which I think helps the trust that a lifeguard isn’t a scary person who yells at you, but they’re your swim teacher or maybe they’re your water aerobics instructor, or maybe they’re the person who scanned you in at the front desk today. And it’s fun to watch kids look up at lifeguards and say, “When I grow up, I’m gonna be a lifeguard someday.” I think that’s one of the coolest compliments.