Ten Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth recently participated in the Lehi Lifeguard Program. Participants met two times per week for four weeks, completing seven classes and 14 hours of instruction. Dione Dallas, Analisa Estrada, Mariah Kayonie, Evenna Lopez, Christian Manymules, Kayne Quintana, Issac Schurz, Maya Washington, Trenton Westbrook and Elvin Whitman were led by lifeguards Cassie Coonts, Leah McKinzie and Shanna Westbrook. Throughout the program, which ended on September 28, participants focused on several key areas: health and physical fitness, first aid, rescue techniques, and educational and recreational activities.
Tatsu Nakamura, a staffer with the SRPMIC Recreation Department–Social Programs, leads the lifeguard program and said it provides an opportunity for Community members, particularly children, to improve their swimming skills and learn how to become a lifeguard.
“The program is instructed by lifeguards who have been chosen to work in the program based on work history, and this is a good opportunity for lifeguards to get to know the kids and the kids to know the lifeguards,” Nakamura said. “The kids recognize the lifeguards from swimming in the summer.”
He said the program is designed to focus on the fun and the safety side of lifeguarding. Nakamura said if the kids are not having fun, then it is not fun for him or the lifeguards who are training them.
“I want them to be safe, so I do not want to push anything to them, but just show them this is an opportunity, and if they are interested they can proceed,” he explained. “Otherwise, if this program was not offered to Community children, they would not have a chance to participate in something different.”
The program is an introduction to lifeguarding, and Nakamura said the participants get a chance to utilize the rescue tube. Most youth see the red rescue tubes worn by lifeguards but often do not get to see them at work. The program allows them to interact with the device.
“We are actually teaching them a little CPR too. We are not giving them a certificate, but I tell them, ‘We can give you skills where you might be able to save someone. This is something you can use if need be. None of your classmates are learning this stuff, and this is a valuable skill you can learn,’” he said.
The program began eight years ago and has been offered to the Community as a way to get youth involved with water safety and the skill of lifeguarding.