While summer days are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying a fun read on the beach, teens in the Cameron County Junior Lifeguard program spend afternoons learning life-saving skills.
The Cameron County Beach Patrol will hold its third and last training session of the summer for Junior Lifeguards on Aug. 11.
According to Beach Patrol lieutenant and Junior Guard program coordinator Myrna Casillas, the program is the second of its kind in the state after Galveston.
Casillas called the training a mini-lifeguard academy because it provides participants with the chance to explore the skills necessary to become a successful lifeguard, including how to spot rip currents, ocean dangers, basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and first-aid. Participants in the program must be 10-15 years old and possess strong swimming skills.
South Padre Island resident Gene Gore, enrolled his children Micah, 13, and Meliah, 11, in the training program. Gore said he felt the training would provide the children with a variety of career options as well as ocean safety training.
“It leads to career opportunities in public service, not just life guarding but EMS (Emergency Medical Services), fire and rescue and Coast Guard. It opens many doors for the children,“ Gore said.
Gore said although his children were accomplished swimmers before the training he has seen their swimming skills improve and their confidence levels rise.
According to Casillas, the Gore children were top performers in the program, which comes as no surprise because swimming is second-nature to the children and the interest to serve as lifeguards is somewhat of a family tradition. Gore met his wife Rachel when the two were life guarding on Galveston beach.
Lifeguard Chief Michael Johnson hopes the program will continue next year and that the self-sustaining aspect of the program encourages county officials to consider keeping the program.
Junior Guards must pay a $125 fee for the two-week training session, which includes a t-shirt, U.S. Lifesaving Association membership and magazine subscription, and covers the hourly wages of the instructors.

Christina R. Garza