Creating Environments for Underserved Youth to Thrive
With summer at its peak, keeping individuals safe while swimming can be a concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year, about 4,000 people die from drowning in the United States. When lifeguards are present at pools or beaches, that risk significantly reduces. Lifeguarding serves as an important career choice both to master swimming skills and to develop personally in leadership and community service, and the Youngstown Lifeguard Academy helps vulnerable youth and young adults fulfill that goal.
The Youngstown Lifeguard Academy was founded in 2019 by Hon. Kevin Tarpley in his hometown. He noticed over the years that Youngstown had a high unemployment rate of underserved young adults 15-24 years old, and he believed the Academy could help address that issue by engaging local candidates in lifeguarding clinics. The program provides members with an opportunity to give back to their community, learn valuable skills, collaborate with their peers, and recruit new members.
As candidates complete their lifeguard training, they are promoted to cadet status and become swim instructors at the Central YMCA of Youngstown. This requires a deep commitment to physical conditioning, community service, and leadership development. Second-year members are required to take on additional training to increase hiring opportunities in the aquatic field. Members continue moving through the program until they turn 25 and become a member of the Alumni Council.
HealthPath’s support of the Youngstown Lifeguard Academy allowed them to partner with the Youngstown Parks and Recreation and Youngstown YMCA to provide membership to Academy members.
The Academy uses Northside Pool facilities operated by the Youngstown Parks and Recreation Department to provide two community Learn to Swim programs hosted by Academy members employed as lifeguards or members partnered with a YMCA instructor. These programs allow members to utilize their skills and identify youth who can go on to pursue competitive swimming on the YMCA Neptune Swim Team. The funding also supports the purchase of safety equipment and promotional announcements.
The program includes 40 candidates from Mahoning County and Trumbull County and six officers from around the area. The three Learn to Swim programs serve 95 community members between the ages of 6 and over 21, which led to the recruitment of 10-15 members for the Neptune Swim Team.
Beyond the numbers, this program shows the value of having faith in young people’s leadership abilities. When provided the proper support and resources, they can do amazing things in their community. The Youngstown Lifeguard Academy proves that value through its members and involvement.