Connie Harvey never dreamt the Red Cross swim lessons she was enrolled in as a child would be the springboard to a career. Today, as the manager of aquatics technical development at the American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., she is responsible for overseeing the development of Red Cross aquatics programming.

Harvey received a degree in physical education from Berea College in Berea, Ky., and in embarking on a career, thought she wanted to become a physical therapist.

Her early aquatics experience includes work as a lifeguard and water safety instructor for the city of Coral Springs, Fla. Through that position she became involved in the Florida Recreation & Park Association’s aquatics branch, where she met some influential colleagues and mentors.

Though her career path took her away from aquatics for a time, she says, “my involvement always goes back to the Red Cross in one way or another.” Harvey began her official tenure with the American Red Cross in 1996 and credits her success to her passion for the organization’s mission — and an ability to listen to varying points of view.

Last year the Red Cross released a Swimming and Water Safety program, and Harvey was responsible for its technical development. Additionally, she’s project manager for the new “Home Pool Essentials: Maintenance and Safety” course, developed collaboratively with the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

Looking ahead, she’ll be managing the development of revisions to the Red Cross Lifeguarding program. Overall, her goal is to make sure all programs and training materials are grounded in science and translate technical language “into training programs that people can relate to and understand.”

Harvey is not only influential in shaping programming, but in spreading the message of water safety to the public. She is a member of the Drowning Prevention Commission of the International Life Saving Federation, and has appeared as a Red Cross spokeswoman in print and television news programs.

“It’s an amazing opportunity and an awesome responsibility to inform people about how to be safe,” Harvey says. “Especially in aquatics, we can have such a direct impact.”