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Atlantic City's junior lifeguards get set to graduate

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Atlantic City already has some of its future lifeguards picked out. They just have to wait a year or two.

The Junior Lifeguard Program introduces 14- and 15-year-olds to what goes into being part of the city’s Beach Patrol, while giving them something to do for the summer.

The 15 in this group will graduate Monday, with a ceremony and demonstration beginning at 11 a.m. at the beach on Mississippi Avenue. The public is invited to attend.

“In the beginning it was really rough for them,” said Leslie Squair Jr., a 12-year lifeguard who is the program's director. “Every day they get better and better.”

Breaking into two groups during a recent drill, those sitting on the water’s edge waiting their turn cheered on the teens running in.

There is no walking into the water to go get a distressed swimmer.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” Squair yelled as the teens went into the rough surf. “Gallop, gallop, gallop, gallop, gallop.”

Not following the rule results in a couple falling as they run in, because they hit holes in the sand, Squair points out.

“I hit a couple of holes, but because I galloped, I was able to hold myself up,” he explains.

In the ocean, lifeguards Andrea Williams and Malcolm Johnson played victims as the teens went out, some in the lifeguard boat, some swimming.

Daniel Luong had a surfboard, waiting for the whistle to blow. He ran before the full alert was called, and was chided for his eagerness.

The 15-year-old Atlantic City High School sophomore said he wants to be a lifeguard. Already a swimmer and tennis player, he said his skills in the water are improving.

“I’m impressed to see how these guys are giving it their all,” said Alex Pabon-Galiano, 27, a 12-year Beach Patrol veteran from Galloway Township.

He came on when lifeguards could start as young as 14.

Pabon-Galiano now works as a lifeguard trainer in District 8 on Texas Avenue. Eight of the city’s 11 lifeguard districts has one or two of the academy students assigned to them. Monday and Wednesday are drill days at Mississippi Avenue. The other three days of the week the students go to the stands.

Kyaisjah Barksdale’s love of swimming and the beach meant the summer program was perfect for her.

But the incoming Atlantic City High School freshman found a new love: rowing.

Now she plans to join the high school’s crew team, with boats that will use more of her leg power than the rowing boats used by guards to rescue distressed swimmers.

Trying to swim through the waves is a challenge, the barely 5-foot-2 teen said. Especially on this day, when the surf was rougher.

Despite her small stature, she’s a standout.

Lifeguard Malcolm Johnson pointed to her as one of the students who would have a job if the Beach Patrol hired that young. For now, the 14-year-old will need to wait two years before she can officially try out.

Most of the teens also do other sports.

Shonn Brantley and Zaire Montague, both 15, together rattle off a list that covers pretty much every sport from lacrosse and football to track, baseball and basketball.

Both are excelling at the academy, several of the veteran lifeguards point out.

After the drills are done but before the group breaks, 14-year-old Beau Nolan has to head out for football practice. He, too, would be hired if not for the age restriction, Johnson said.

The students also get training with Nathan Evans of Natural Evolution Training to help them stay fit.

Squair has experienced what it can do firsthand. Working with Evans, he went from about 250 pounds to his current weight of 215.

For more information on the academy, go to atlanticcitybeachpatrol.org.

Squair can be reached from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 609-347-5307 or by email at lsquair3@gmail.com

Contact: 609-272-7257

LCohen@pressofac.com

Twitter @LyndaCohen

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