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Phoenix Seeks to Recruit Minority Lifeguards, Even Ones Who Lack Strong Swimming Skills


"We will work with you in your swimming abilities."

Photo credit: AZ Central

Photo credit: AZ Central

Officials in a major U.S. city are reportedly seeking to fill their minority quota for lifeguard positions at public pools with those who require additional training in order to become proficient swimmers.

The city of Phoenix is looking to step up its diversity in the area of lifeguards. So much so in fact that 29 public swimming pools will reportedly now be manned by blacks, Latinos and Asians who may not have the advanced swimming skills required to succeed in their roles. The apparent good news, however, is that the city will "work with" the candidates on improving their "swimming abilities" via money it has raised for this very purpose.

NPR reported that 90 percent of the students at Phoenix's Alhambra High are black, Latino or Asian and that city official Melissa Boyle told the students she's not looking for strong swimmers in her recruiting efforts.

"We will work with you in your swimming abilities," Boyle said.

The kids in the pool are all either Hispanic or black or whatever, and every lifeguard is white and we don't like that," Boyle's colleague Kelly Martinez said.

The kids don't relate; there's language issues." NPR adds:

Competitive swimming still has a reputation as a white sport. And a national study released in 2010 found African-Americans and Latinos reported much lower swimming proficiency compared to whites.

"It's that catch-22," says Becky Hulett, who oversees Phoenix's public pools. "If the kids don't learn how to swim, as adults they are not going to swim, [and] they aren't going to take their own kids to swim."

Thus, two years ago, Hulett reportedly began to rework her lifeguard recruiting strategy in order to bring minorities into the fold. The city decided to raise roughly $15,000 in scholarships to help subsidize the cost of lifeguard-certification courses.

Now recruits are reportedly required to pass a swim test before being able to apply for a lifeguard position.

"Honestly, I have a little bit a fear of the water, and I wanted to overcome that fear," high school junior Jesus Jimenez told NPR.

"It is nice to have the satisfaction of knowing that if somebody is in trouble you can save them at any time," he said.

If selected to be a lifeguard, NPR reports that pool staff will work with him on his swimming abilities during the summer.

While some might argue that lifeguards should come to the job with pre-existing swimming skills, others might see the city's program as a valuable way of enabling people to acquire a skill, and thus, gainful employment, rather than allow them to become dependents on the system.

(H/T: Judicial Watch)

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