LOS ANGELES — A new county program launched to diversify the lifeguard workforce in Los Angeles.
The LA County Lifeguard Ready Training program enrolls dozens of youth ages 16 to 24 and prepares them for aquatic careers. With twice per week training at Roosevelt Park Community Pool in Boyle Heights, the six-week program runs at three locations in East LA and South LA.
Diego Vazquez signed up as soon as he turned 16.
“I’ve also been doing junior lifeguarding at the beach, and it just seemed like something really fun, and I’m passionate and waking up in the morning to go do,” he said.
The free program is actively recruiting diverse youth to aquatic careers and to the water. The ability to swim is not a requirement, as they teach participants. The goal is diversify the industry.
Gerardo Aguila has been a lifeguard for 15 years. He grew up swimming in a community pool in El Monte and wants to welcome more people of color to the water.
"Some people didn’t grow up being exposed to an aquatic environment so with this program it opens up plenty of doors for individuals to come and actually experience that and get a feel for the water, and maybe get on a career path to becoming a lifeguard," he said.
Vazquez is now on that path. He’s doing the drills and learning the skills for a job with a starting pay of $18 dollars an hour. He wants to one day be the person sitting on the lifeguard tower.
“It’s not every day that you see someone of color on that tower just watching people,” he said. “It’s usually more of the non-blacks or non-hispanics always there and I think it’s good just to be more open about the water.”
The next training will start Nov. 8, and a third one will start Jan. 3.