Life Lessons At The Beach

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - July 23, 2008
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Junior Lifeguard program participants Kekai Quan (front), Cody Patton and Caden Joaquin
Junior Lifeguard program participants Kekai Quan (front), Cody Patton and Caden Joaquin

Imagine summer school at the beach where sand, surf and fun are all part of the daily curriculum. It’s a classroom we could only imagine attending as kids but could never convince Mom and Dad that the lessons learned would make a difference in our lives. These days, convincing parents is not a problem - not when it comes to the highly successful Junior Lifeguard program.

“As a parent, I appreciate all the programs the city offers our kids, especially this one,” says veteran lifeguard and Junior Lifeguard program coordinator James Barros. “What we do with our junior lifeguards goes far beyond CPR and first-aid training. Our students are providing an extra layer of protection for their families and their communities.”

This summer more than 600 children received lessons on lifesaving, the highest total in the program’s 16-year history. The goal of the program has remained constant from day one: to increase the self-confidence, physical conditioning and ocean awareness of program participants through their introduction to ocean and beach safety, first aid and surf rescue techniques.

“That confidence in the ocean is not only going to save lives, it will also help them in all they do,” says Barros. “We’re building confidence that will help them in high school, college, even in other sports.”

Barros firmly believes the lessons learned on the beach cannot be duplicated in a classroom or by reading a book. He says life-saving techniques and other physical instruction also provide opportunities for emotional growth.

“We’re taking them right out of their comfort zones and pushing them while maintaining a very safe and controlled environment,” says Barros. “They are trained at an intermediate level to respond to emergencies, but they’re learning so much more about themselves and what they can accomplish.”

On Saturday, Aug. 2, Oahu’s junior lifeguards will see just how much they have learned when they host the Junior Guard Championship at Ala Moana Beach Park. It’s a daylong event expected to attract more than 1,000 participants and family members from across the state.

“They’re training, they’re swimming and they’re really getting ready for this competition,” Barros says with excitement. “Junior guards from the entire state will be here: the Big Island, Lanai, Maui and Kauai.

Of course, being from Oahu we want to have a strong showing, but this event really showcases the state’s commitment to having healthy communities.”

Of course, not every junior lifeguard aspires to be a city lifeguard or even wants a career in public safety, but Barros says there have been a number of “graduates” who have saved lives both in and out of the water.

“It’s very rewarding when we hear about those stories,” says Barros. “We never go into the program with that as a goal, but we know about the success stories. It’s good to see reinforcement with the kids and hear them say, ‘Wow, I did something.’ I know we’re touching lives.”

Touching lives and saving lives - not a bad curriculum. Summer school never sounded so good.


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