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Junior lifeguard program teaches lifesaving skills

July 13, 2018

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — In a UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab classroom, three boys donned purple medical gloves yesterday as instructors from the Cameron County Parks Beach Patrol prepared to demonstrate how to perform chest compressions on rescue dummies.

Chief Art Hurtado told the students in the junior lifeguard program not to be afraid of pushing too hard against the sternum, and Lt. Jonathan Castillo said a popping sound would indicate they were pushing down far enough.

“If you don’t hear it, you’ll feel it,” Castillo said.

The boys had spent the past week learning lifesaving skills under the tutelage of the beach patrol. Gisela Montoya, coordinator of the junior lifeguard program, said the students learned about escaping rip currents, using rescue equipment and the different types of victims lifeguards might encounter. Many who participate in the program eventually go on to work for the beach patrol, she added.

“I was scared to dive because my sister told me there were a lot of sharks in the water, and that got in my head,” said Daniel Castro, 12, adding that he’s confident he can snorkel on his family’s upcoming vacation without fear. “I feel better now.”

For 13-year-old Jorge Albores, the best part of the camp so far has been learning how to escape a rip current.

Daniel Fiurro, 12, said he most enjoyed learning how to use rescue devices to help swimmers in distress.

“I feel more confident now,” he said.

Hurtado said the students also will have a chance to participate in track-and-field-style events during the United States Lifeguard Association’s competition next week on the Island. The goal of the junior lifeguard program is to prepare students to be “more water-savvy” and gain safety skills, like the basic life support certification on which they worked Thursday.

“We spot dangers in the water, but we want to stop it before it becomes an emergency,” he said.

It’s not far-fetched to think the students will put their skills into action, Hurtado said. Junior lifeguards and surf school parents have helped during rescues before, such as when adults assisted with the recovering of a drowned surfer two years ago.

Next, Montoya said the students will learn how to safely jump from the jetties to rescue people caught in the rip current.

The next session of the junior lifeguard program, aimed at children ages 10-16, begins July 23. Get more information at (956) 203-2313 or junior.lifeguard@co.cameron.tx.us.

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com