Saving lives; lifeguard classes upcoming soon

HARLINGEN – Aransas Haley wants everyone to enjoy swimming as much as she does.

However, they can’t enjoy themselves at the pool or the beach if a lifeguard isn’t keeping an eye on things, said Haley, a junior at Harlingen High School South.

She’ll soon be able to provide that peace of mind when she earns her certification as a lifeguard at the Aquatics Center on the east side of Boggus Stadium at South 13th Street and East Jackson Avenue.

“I can provide them with a sense of security,” said Haley, 16, who was delighted yesterday afternoon when Sandra Flinn, aquatics director, announced the school district’s plan to offer a program called “WATER Academy.” WATER stands for Water Awareness Training and Emergency Rescue. The course which will be taught in the program is called “American Red Cross Lifesaving Course.

Flinn made the announcement yesterday to swimmers from the varsity swim teams of Harlingen High School and Harlingen High School South. They’d gathered at the Aquatics Center for their daily swim class.

The Harlingen school district will offer the course to its swimmers in March, during the off season.

The course will be taught during their regular class time in the afternoon. A total of 75 swimmers are on the teams.

“We’re going to try it out,” she said. “We’re going to see what the response is. I think it will be positive. “

The students will earn a certification to work as a lifeguard, soaking up the sun, watching the swimmers.

“What better way to spend the summer than at a pool?” said Yvonne Moran, aquatics facilities specialist who will teach the course.

She seemed energized by the prospect of teaching the students how to save lives.

“I think it’s good, especially when it’s not something I had in high school,” she said.

Lifeguards must also be ready to move at a moment’s notice to help a distressed swimmer.

The demands of the course are high, beginning with eligibility requirements. In order to even take the course, students must be at least 15 years old. They must be able to swim 300 yards, tread water for two minutes, and retrieve a brick from the bottom of the pool in one minute and 40 seconds.

Because the varsity swim teams athletes already are experienced swimmers, they are excellent candidates for the course, Moran said.

Neida Razo, 17, was looking forward to the course. Neida, a Harlingen High School junior, hoped she could work as a lifeguard this summer, perhaps at Pendleton Pool or Schlitterbahn. The skills she’ll learn will empower her to possibly save a life.

“I would feel I guess proud of myself,” she said.

Having the skills can eliminate the helplessness some people might feel if a swimmer is having trouble and the others don’t know what to do.

Allen Kuhaneck, 16, a Harlingen High School sophomore, remembers clearly an incident when he was only six or seven years old back in Maine.

Of course he was too young to do much, but he remembers his fear when a friend became distressed.

“He didn’t know how to swim too well,” he said. “I wanted to help.”

Fortunately, he was able to run to a nearby lifeguard and his friend was rescued.

Aransas said she’s never seen anyone in distress while swimming, but she wants to be able to help if she ever does. She emphasized the importance of remaining calm.

“In panic situations, it’s about thinking clearly,” she said.

LIFEGUARD CERTIFICATION

WHAT: “Water Academy.”

Lifeguard certification

WHEN: March

WHERE: Aquatics Center

Harlingen varsity swimmers will take the course during normal class time.

A separate lifeguard class will be offered after school to other high school students and members of the community.

Exact dates and times have not yet been determined. Some fees will apply.

For more information, call the Aquatics Center at 364-3950.