Breanna McConnell

Wall Lifeguard Looks Back on Time at Pool and Prepares for Next Chapter

By the end of this week, we will have already been nearly a month into the technical definition of summer and a month and a half into what many children know as summer: the three months that school is out and fun, sun-filled activities – such as going to the community pool – are in. Lifeguard Mercede Hess knows firsthand how exciting this season can be, especially for kids.  
Hess graduated from Wall High School in 2019, moving on to attend the University of Minnesota at Morris. This spring, she graduated from Morris, and she will be attending Kansas City University this fall so as to earn a Master's degree in biomedical sciences. This doesn't mean that she will be giving up working with children, however. "After this year I hope to go to medical school to become a pediatrician."  
Until then, it seems that she's enjoying her time as a lifeguard, having worked at the Wall pool for a total of three years. "I originally became a lifeguard because I thought that it would be a fun summer job and I love being around kids," she explained. "I also used to swim at the pool a lot as a kid and I always looked up to the lifeguards – that is a positive role model I wanted for the present kids in Wall."  
To teach children the importance of safe swimming behavior, the staff members of the Wall pool offer lessons throughout the summer. This year, these sessions began the week of June 20, continuing from June 27 to July 1 and ending on Thursday, July 15. Hess noted that, of the nine lifeguards on the team, three have received the American Red Cross training necessary to teach the lessons. She is one of them. "Lifeguard training is so much fun!... The training is only a few days, but a lot of material is covered and it is not as difficult as it seems going into [it]." She added, "Lifeguard certification has to be renewed every two years. However, the recertification training only takes two hours compared to the multiple days the first time."
On the topic of swimming lessons, Hess noted, "Personally, I love working with the Preschool and Level 1 groups. They are always so much fun with their big personalities!" In addition to those two groups, Hess, Ava Dinger, and Nathan Law also teach up to Level 6. "The approximate age groups fall with their grade level," Hess explained. "However, sometimes kids will fall ahead or below their level. It just depends on comfort level with the water because all kids are different – some are like little fish and others prefer not to associate at all with the water."  
The first two groups, Preschool and Level 1, primarily work on doing just that – getting comfortable with being in the pool. They also learn how to float, blow bubbles, bob, and go underwater. Level 2 swimmers must be able to use what they learned in the Preschool and Level 1 sessions to perform them without assistance. Level 3 swimmers learn how to front and back crawl, perform elementary backstrokes, dive, and tread in deep water, while Level 4 swimmers learn the butterfly, breast, and side strokes as well as perfect the skills learned in previous lessons. Children in the fifth and sixth levels have the opportunity to better the skills they acquired throughout the history of their swimming lessons, also adding in survival skills.  
Making it all the way to Level 6 may certainly come with its share of challenges, but it's clear to see the positive impact offering swimming lessons has on both the young swimmers and the lifeguards who work closely with them. "The lessons are never boring, and we have a lot of fun. I also love when they did something good – and they knew it, too – so they make me give them a high five to tell them that they did good," Hess described. With a smile on her face, she went on to say, "One of my favorite funny moments is when the kids are jumping off the board purposefully to splash me. I'm just sitting in my chair and one by one the kids are either jumping off the board or right next to my chair to get me soaking. And, surprisingly, this happens a lot more than you think."

The Pioneer Review

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