Peoria Public Schools launches new lifeguard training program

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Public Schools is diving into a new program to get ahead of the lifeguard shortage from the past summer.

Through the “Earn While You Learn” lifeguard program at Manual High School, students will receive training to pass the lifeguard certification test and get paid while doing it.

“We’re trying to increase the number of certified lifeguards for the [Peoria] Park District, as well as increase the number of African American males and females for lifeguarding in the Peoria area… I was a lifeguard myself, and for many years there were very few people who looked like me,” said PPS Family Liaison Facilitator Reginald Pete Thomas, who is leading the program.

Thomas said the goal is to establish a pipeline for high school students to be employed in the aquatics division of the Peoria Park District. Students will strengthen swimming skills, including arm stroke, kicking, breathing, and endurance.

“It feels wonderful, gives them an opportunity to gain employment that will last from high school beyond,” he said. “It’s lots of fun, summertime you always have a job.”

Students who signed up for the program said they are looking forward to gaining skills and having fun.

“It seems like the best thing out there and kind of fun,” said sophomore Jacob Szidom.

“I signed up for this program because I thought it would be cool, and also I just want to help people out,” said junior Amialee Velazquez. “I hope that I can gain the skills I need to save someone if need be, and also just be a better swimmer.”

Thomas said the skills learned to go beyond the pool.

“Say you’re in a different situation and someone stopped breathing, or someone has a heart attack, something like that. You’re familiar with how to use to AED….and things like that to resuscitate, or get that heart back beating to resuscitate,” he said.

Classes began on Oct. 4 and go through Dec. 3, but spots are still open. Each class meets for 45 minutes on Tuesdays in multiple time slots from 3 P.M. to 6 P.M.

Interested students should email Thomas at to sign up. Classes will also be offered in the spring.

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