LEWISTON – The YWCA of Central Maine, in partnership with the American Red Cross, will conduct training sessions for lifeguard and water safety instructor certifications.

While the certifications are not required by state law, many summer camps, pools and beaches only hire American Red Cross certified personnel.

“The certification gives swimmers the peace of mind that the lifeguard on duty has been well trained and passed a certification test,” said Kimberly Finnerty, assistant director of aquatics at the YWCA.

Lacking sufficient certified personnel means that the facilities and organizations may not be able to offer swim programs and lessons, she said.

“There has been a shortage of certified lifeguards across the country,” commented Pamela Gallant, director of aquatics at the YWCA of Central Maine. “At the Y, we offer great training, and there are lots of jobs available for high school and college students for summer employment.”

To become a certified lifeguard, a person must be at least 15 years of age, be able to swim at least 500 yards nonstop and pass a prescreening test. The certification is issued by the Red Cross and is recognized nationwide.

The YWCA does not plan to limit its aquatics programming, and has put plans in place to avoid having to cut back on hours of operation.

“We have sufficient resources to keep our operation in full swing with certified lifeguards and water safety instructors,” said Anne Craigs, executive director. “We encourage teens to consider the opportunity to become a certified lifeguard. It is a wonderful set of life-long skills and almost guaranteed employment. Some of our lifeguards have been working with us for several years. We trained them and have employed them throughout their high school or college careers.”

Lifeguard instruction is taking place at the YWCA. For more information or to register for training, call 795-4050.

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