One Ridgewood high school has been helping to turn its students into the city’s finest lifeguards of the last decade.
Grover Cleveland High School’s swimming program went through an overhaul 10 years ago when Chris Sullivan and Felicia Mair, both current lifeguards, were asked to take over teaching the program by Jack Ciano, assistant principal of physical education/health at Grover Cleveland. They decided it was time for a change and felt that the program could be used for more than just physical education class credit.
Mair and Sullivan wanted their students to not only learn how to swim, but to use that dedication and motivation to become certified lifeguards.
The students took to the challenge right away and were eager to jump into the pool to begin learning.
“These students work so hard. It’s not easy becoming a lifeguard,” Sullivan said. “You have to be an advanced swimmer, plus pass all the physical rescue tests, and take multiple written tests in which you need to score an 80 percent to get your certification.”
Sullivan explained to his students that becoming a lifeguard would be beneficial for them for years to come, as it would yield a summer job, one that they could continue to hold while away at college and during summer breaks. He told them that the pay for a lifeguard is higher than most high school jobs, with starting rates between $10 to $13.50 per hour. Being a lifeguard is also a college application and resume builder, and students would likely be given great networking opportunities while on duty at the city’s beaches and pools.
“The swimming program has made a positive change in my life. It made me realize that all the hard work you put in pays off in the end,” said Angel Martinez, a graduating Grover Cleveland senior. “My coaches, Sullivan and Ms. Mair, showed me to never be satisfied in helping and doing great things for others. And without them and my teammates I probably would be with the wrong people doing horrible things and so I thank everyone who played a part in my life.”
Over the 10 years since Mair and Sullivan took over the course, Grover Cleveland has churned out more than 200 lifeguards who have gone on to work for the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, YMCA locations and private pools.
This season, Grover Cleveland expects to have around 20 students working at Rockaway Beach, and at least 10 at Astoria Pool.
“This has been so great for this community and these students for many reasons. Being a lifeguard teaches these students responsibility for lives other than their own, instills good character, builds confidence and helps them financially,” Sullivan said. “Many of our older lifeguards are now teachers, nurses and EMTs. Graduating seniors now want to be of service to others — they want to become firefighters and doctors. Ridgewood is a strong community and building up teenagers and young adults that are protecting and saving lives all over NYC.”