I never had the desire to have children of my own but in the summer of 2019 I adopted 70 teenagers.
Let me explain. I always knew that our job makes a huge difference in the communities we represent. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing a child learn how to swim for the first time or seeing their smiling faces at a program or special event. In May 2019, I was promoted to aquatics manager, making me fully responsible for the entire Aquatics Department.
It took a while, but I came to a completely unexpected realization: The same impact felt by the community is also experienced by the staff I manage each summer. This was their family away from their family, and the children are my responsibility.
For the most of my staff, this was their first job. Not only did I have to teach them how to perform CPR correctly but I also had to teach them about other life skills. I wasn’t just their supervisor, but also their mentor, role model and support system away from home.
I like to spend time with my staff and get to know each one of them. During these conversations, I found myself explaining why taxes are taken out of their paycheck and I had to help them create a savings account.
On many occasions my lifeguards wouldn’t bring a lunch to work, or they’re eating fast food and they look dehydrated. I wanted them to be able to have a healthy meal and enjoy their time there instead of looking miserable. I need them to be physically able to react and mentally ready to respond to an emergency. I made it a point to purchase bread, peanut butter and so they could have a meal waiting for them. These lunches created a family dinner atmosphere for everyone.
This is huge responsibility that I enjoy. It can be frustrating and complicated, but rewarding at the same time.
1. Creating a family atmosphere is your No. 1 recruiting tool. A lot of our staff bring their friends in. And we want them to be able to develop friendships that continue past summer.
2. Teenagers eat a lot. I honestly thought a loaf of bread would last a week. It lasted 30 minutes! Also, they are very picky about the jam or jelly — no generic brand. Since I was feeding an army, my budget will need to be adjusted.
3. Remember where you came from. I started my career as a lifeguard, so I always remember how it feels to be them.