Amy Ashlock repeated the same words over and over. She knew she had no choice. She wanted the youngsters to retain the hard, cold facts.
"I told them countless times, you've got other people's lives in your hands,'' said Ashlock, supervisor of the Highland Family Aquatic Center. "I will keep saying it, too. I'm all about this.''
Ashlock — along with Lindsay Harrell, supervisor of Southwest Pool, and Dan Patterson, a lifeguard instructor — spent the month of April training the 2009 class of Future Rescuers for the city of Largo, a program designed to teach youth ages 11 to 15 the basics of life guarding and water safety.
Seven students completed the program, including one boy and six girls. They now hold Red Cross certificates in CPR, first aid, water safety aid and community water safety.
"What's most challenging in teaching this age group is to make sure the kids take it seriously,'' said Ashlock, 25. "They naturally want to goof off at least a little bit.''
Before taking the class, applicants are required to go through a series of tests. They need to swim 300 yards, demonstrating both the freestyle and breaststroke. They need to tread water for one minute, and they need to successfully retrieve a 10-pound diving brick from below water's surface.
"But I have to say that most applicants know going into this type of program that they are excellent swimmers,'' Ashlock said.
Once school ends in about a month, most of the Future Rescuer graduates will volunteer at the Highland Family Aquatic Center for the summer season, providing assistants to the adult lifeguards and helping with swimming lessons.
"But again they can only do it if they show us that being poolside with us is more than just spending a summer in the sun,'' Ashlock said.
Although there will be eight adult lifeguards in charge of the pool during each shift at the aquatic center, youth volunteers will juggle several duties. "Without the kids, our job would be a lot harder,'' Ashlock said.
Future Rescuers are assigned to check the height of children on slides, perform life jacket fittings and help with water tests.
For Sarah Golden, 15, this will mark her third summer volunteering as a Future Rescuer.
"It's hard work, but I keep doing it because it's fun, and, I might work in the field of recreation when I'm done with school,'' said Golden, a freshman at Woodlawn Community Academy in Clearwater.
Her mother, also named Sarah Golden, believes Future Rescuers provides her daughter just the right mix of work and play.
"It's a great program. She's learning so much,'' said Golden, 50. "At the same time, I know she has friends working with her. It's equally important that she'll be enjoying her summer.''