HIGH LIFE A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : A Great Summer Job : High School Lifeguards Love the Work: ‘I Can Be Outside and the Hours Are Good’

Monica Neal, a recent graduate of Orange High School, is a regular contributor to High Life.

Ah, summertime. Time for teen-agers to slip on bathing suits, head to the nearest body of water and work on that tan.

The ideal life. Paradise, some would say.

“Aaaaiiieee! Kowabunga!”

“Slow down, young lady! Don’t run.”



Trouble in paradise? No, just another summer day for the lifeguards and staff at the Orange High School pool, one of three open during the season by the city of Orange for recreational swimming and lessons.

If sitting and tanning--and occasionally swimming--in the sun all day is the ideal summer activity, then this is the ideal summer job.

“It is different from any other job,” said 20-year-old Kris Briggs, a third-year student at Cal State Fullerton. Briggs, who graduated from Orange High in 1987, has been working pool side for five years. She considers the experience “unique.”


“I can be outside, the hours are good and I get to work with all my friends,” Briggs said. “It’s the job of summer.”

The rest of the staff agrees.

“I like the kids, mostly,” said Brooke Burbridge, a 1988 graduate of Orange High and a sophomore at UCLA.

Burbridge says that working with the children has been fun.


But the young instructors don’t always have it easy.

“I had one little kid in my class who was crying the whole time,” said Jennifer Hocknell, an Orange High junior. “He was in preschool. I asked him what his favorite part of swimming was, and he cried, ‘Hanging on the wall!’ I practically had to tear him away from it.

“Now, however, he’s so used to the water that he loves it.”

Hocknell, 16, received her water safety instruction certificate--one of the requirements for teaching swimming--and began work as a lifeguard this summer.


While a water safety certificate isn’t required of lifeguards, being 16 and having passed courses in lifesaving, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid are.

For those who don’t have time for the courses, serving as a pool attendant is the next best way to have fun in the sun.

Becoming a pool attendant “was a lot better than the office job I was offered, because I hate filing, and anyway, I can be outdoors,” said Naomi Healy, 16, a senior at Orange High.

Pool attendants help the lifeguards by keeping the pool deck clean and handling the money and entry of children during recreational swim hours.


Though she hasn’t completed the courses necessary to become a lifeguard, Healy also helps out occasionally with the swim team each afternoon.

“I like all the activities,” said Kirsten Herbel, 14, who has been attending swim classes for the last four years. The staff “is really friendly, and I’ve improved a lot over the past four years,” she said, naming pool manager Heather Hicks as the person who has helped her the most.

Hicks, 22, has been a lifeguard for the past five years, beginning in the summer of her freshman year in college. She teaches everything from diving to tiny tots courses, designed for 3- to 5-year-olds.

“With the tiny tots, it’s mostly a matter of water adjustment,” Hicks said, “like getting them to put their bodies and faces in the water. We also teach them water safety, like how to swim to the wall if they accidentally fall in.


“It’s a really nice job, especially for high school kids, because it teaches them responsibility,” she said.

Hicks also said the staff helps to make the pool a fun place to work. “I really like working with the staff. We’ve had really good members year after year, and even those who are new learn quickly. It’s work, but it’s fun.”

Ed Prange, 25, is a third-year lifeguard who is also a substitute teacher in the Orange Unified School District.

“I really like the people I work with, as well as the flexible hours and being in the sun,” said Prange, a 1982 graduate of Orange High.


As both a swimming coach at Orange High and a lifeguard, Prange has worked with many of the student lifeguards.

“From what I’ve seen here at Orange High, I think the teens are more responsible and mature” as lifeguards, he said. “Everyone seems to take his job seriously.”

This is apparent by their demeanor in the stands and on the deck. Swimming is fun, but work is work.

“I learned by being a lifeguard that, when I was a little kid, I must have been a brat,” said Betsy Burbridge, 16, an Orange High junior. “I always thought it would be easy to be a lifeguard, but now I realize how hard it is.”


Her sister, Brooke, 19, agrees. “The hardest thing, when I first started, was to get the kids to listen to me. I would yell 50 times, and some of them would still ignore me.”

Having to teach swimming is also new for many of the lifeguards.

“You really have to think about what you’re doing, because you have to tell the kids things at their level to make it fun,” Betsy Burbridge said.

After teaching her first two-week session, she saw a marked difference in her students’ abilities.


The children see improvement in themselves. Jeff Harris, a 13-year-old who has been coming to the pool for the last three summers, said: “I like diving. I knew how to swim, but they taught me how to dive, and also to improve my strokes.”

His friend, Mike Maresh, 14, added, “I never knew how to do a back flip off the high dive, and the instructors taught me how.”

Both Harris and Maresh will be freshmen at Orange High in the fall, and are contemplating continuing their summer activity by joining the school’s swimming and water polo teams.