YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – This month alone, there have been five near-drownings and one death at local swimming areas.
While there are no lifeguards on duty at Mosquito Lake, there are signs reminding swimmers of the dangers of swimming alone, along with marked designated swimming areas.
But at places like the North Side Pool, a lifeguard is always standing by, most of which are trained by licensed instructors at the Jewish Community Center.
For the last two years, the JCC has partnered with the city of Youngstown to train and equip high school students, regardless of their experience level, to become lifeguards at the North Side Pool.
“We spend a lot of time with them, getting them ready… We give them lessons first and certify them, all with no cost to the child,” said JCC Director of Health and Wellness Laura Weymer.
Weymer, alongside head lifeguard Marco Ditommaso, said one of their recent lifeguard trainees, 16-year-old Anthony Jones, was so determined to pass the course and become certified that he spent extra time in the pool.
“He really took a lot on himself as well towards the end of studying — going outside of the curriculum, looking things up himself. So I was really proud of him at the end of the class,” Ditommaso said.
That pride in him only grew when Ditommaso learned Jones was the one who saved two little girls from drowning at the North Side Pool last week.
As an instructor, Ditommaso said it’s a great feeling being able to pass on this important knowledge to everyone who takes his course.
“So when I see something like this in Anthony [who] does his job and does it well, it makes me feel like I did a nice job,” Ditommaso said.
Along with lifeguard training courses, the JCC also offers swimming lessons in its Early Learning Center, where students are getting into the water every week.
But regardless of experience, those at the JCC remind us all that if you’re ever in a situation where you’re struggling in the water…
“The first thing to do is try not to panic, and as a parent, you need to be supervising your child 100% of the time,” Weymer said.
Weymer also said that the worst thing you can do is try to jump in after someone who is struggling because they could pull you down as well.
“Throw something to them and try to pull them in. As a child and as an adult, don’t go where you can’t touch. If you are a little weaker on your swimming skills, make sure you’re in a place and put in an area that is safe where you can touch,” Weymer said.
The swim instructors at the JCC also want to remind less experienced swimmers to put on a life jacket, whether it’s in the pool or a lake. The vest should be tight across you so there is no way it could go above your head in the water.