Lifeguarding a splashy opportunity for work study

Kayla Schwab ’17 stands watch over Vassar’s Kresage Pool. A work study job available through student employment, the position is open only to individuals with CPR and lifeguard certification. Photo By: Alec Ferretti
Kayla Schwab ’17 stands watch over Vassar’s Kresage Pool. A work study job available through student employment, the position is open only to individuals with CPR and lifeguard certification. Photo By: Alec Ferretti
Kayla Schwab ’17 stands watch over Vassar’s Kresage Pool. A work study job available through
student employment, the position is open only to individuals with CPR and lifeguard certification. Photo By: Alec Ferretti

The Kresage Pool in Walker is one locale on campus that, depending on the time of day, can be incredibly crowded or completely deserted. Between swim lessons, practices and open pool hours, many people come and go from the pool. Despite the varying nature of the pool, some people are constantly there: the lifeguards.

Kevin Newhall ’17 has been a lifeguard since the past summer and worked at Vassar’s pool since the last semester. His shifts consist of anything between an hour and three hours.

“If it’s a long practice, it’s sometimes possible to sit for two hours straight. Luckily, that doesn’t happen very often,” wrote Newhall.

He explained his decision, “I chose to be a lifeguard because I had a certification from over the summer and it was one of the first jobs I could find.”

He added, “Also, the pay is a little bit higher than most jobs, so that’s a nice perk too.”

Chuck Herrmann ’15, is on the varsity swim team and has been a lifeguard since he was 16.

He wrote in an emailed statment, “I have worked at a summer camp the past four years, but only started working here at Vassar my sophomore year.”

He is a supervising lifeguard, meaning he gets paid a dollar more per hour, that is, nine dollars an hour over eight. Additionally, Herrmann considers the position of lifeguard to be less competitive than other student jobs. In order to be qualified as a lifeguard, one must be both lifeguard and CPR certified, and thus the pool of potential workers is smaller.

Lifeguard rotation is run by the Assistant Swim Coach Danny Koenig who oversees all seventeen student employees and helps to create the weekly schedule.

“They are all extremely responsible and do a great job of showing up on time and taking care of business when they are on duty,” wrote Koenig in an emailed statement. “We try to keep a consistent schedule, but things often change, and the lifeguarding staff responds with enthusiasm.”

Kayla Schwab ’17 is also on the varsity swim team but only just began lifeguarding.

“I actually just got certified for the first time in June 2013,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “I chose to be a lifeguard because of my background in swimming and because in the summers in particular, I am able to lifeguard, coach a swim team and teach swim lessons all at the same pool.”

As a work-study job, lifeguarding requires a significant time commitment. Students lifeguards must find a balance in their schedules to be able to handle their job at the pool as well as courses and course load.

Koenig wrote, “In terms of scheduling, I allow them to create their own schedule. The number of hours they are able to work are determined by their year in school.”

Koenig continued, “We like to have two guards on duty if possible, which makes the pool safer for the patrons. In addition, the task of lifeguarding becomes a little less cumbersome when someone else is there to rotate into the guard stand.”

With the 30 or more hours of open swim and the swim practices following that, the lifeguards are kept busy. Although the hours can be difficult, they are manageable. The lifeguards agree that, when there are more guards at the pool, the job passes more quickly.

“Lifeguarding at Vassar is a great job,” Schwab wrote. “Usually, there are two of us working each shift, which means we are able to spend half an hour in the chair, and the other half hour as a backup lifeguard…[who] doesn’t have to sit in the chair, and is able to do their homework or whatever while keeping an eye on the pool.”

Herrmann agreed: “We switch every half hour, so realistically we only have to be sitting in the chair for half of our allotted time.”

Schwab concurred, adding, “Lifeguarding is also a nice way to get to know people, because a variety of different people come to use the pool each day,” she wrote.

Though the activity level of the pool varies, Schwab said that the busiest hours are in the mornings between 9 am and 11 am.

Those who come to the pool are not as constant. “I see lots of different people that I know at the pool each day,” she added. “Often times I see other student-athletes doing in-water training while I am guarding, or people I know from class swimming laps. I have even guarded while some of my professors were swimming.”

Seeing professors at the pool is not a rare occurrence for the students: both Herrmann and Newhall have guarded for their professors on at least one occasion.

Lifeguarding can prove to be a useful skill. Students noted that, at least until graduation, they were content with their work. Herrmann commented, “I would continue to do this job at Vassar until I graduate, but after that probably not.”

Schwab said, “I would definitely continue to do this job, especially because it fits very easily into my schedule in between classes and swim practice. It is nice not to have to walk to two separate locations for work and practice.”

Newhall wrote, “Lifeguarding can be a little stressful at times, like when you’re alone and the pool is full, but it’s usually not that bad of a job.

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