A lifeguard at the McCormick YMCA, 1834 N. Lawndale Ave. Credit: Courtesy of Gabe Mozsi

LOGAN SQUARE — With Chicago still facing a lifeguard shortage, the YMCA that sits on the border of Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Hermosa is rolling out a program it hopes will help keep city pools afloat.

The McCormick YMCA at 1834 N. Lawndale Ave. is recruiting underserved youth for a new program called Swim for Success.

Under the program, 10 young people ages 16-20 will receive lifeguard training from the McCormick YMCA aquatics team four days a week June-August. Participants will be paid $15.40 an hour.

The YMCA is taking applications online. Applicants must be able to swim. All transportation and equipment costs are covered.

YMCA leaders launched the program to combat the nationwide lifeguard shortage, Aquatics Director Joel Segovia said.

The Park District was only able to open 37 of its 77 pools last summer due to staffing shortages at pools and city beaches.

Some youths interested in becoming lifeguards told Block Club at the time there were dissuaded by the Park District’s low pay and disorganization in onboarding staff.

Young people in the McCormick program will learn how to perform CPR and other lifesaving techniques, as well as how to maintain a pool and manage young children — training that will prepare them for jobs with the Park District or the YMCA, Segovia said.

“We just think this makes sense,” Executive Director Angel La Luz said. “The Y basically invented swim lessons, so who better to do it than us?”

Credit: Provided

The workforce development program, funded by a $22,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, will also teach young people responsibility, leadership and other valuable skills that don’t only apply to a career in aquatics, Segovia said.

“It gives the youth a chance to experience what the field offers. It’s a great summer job. It gives them a level of maturity, another level of responsibility. These skills are transferable almost anywhere,” Segovia said.

More broadly, Swim for Success is “designed to address racial and ethnic employment inequities that persist in the West Side communities served by the McCormick YMCA,” the organization said in an emailed statement.

YMCA leaders said they’re working with partners and other community organizations to reach disadvantaged youth who will benefit from rigorous swim instruction and lifeguard training.

“The ability to swim and acquire those skills in Black and Brown communities, I think, is especially important,” La Luz said. “It’s for younger kids to see people on the chair that look like them, to inspire them to look at new opportunities that they might not be aware of otherwise.”

The McCormick YMCA pool. Credit: Provided

The pilot program comes as Park District officials scramble to fill lifeguard vacancies ahead of pool and beach season. Parents and swim coaches have blamed the issue on chronic lack of investment in local swim programs, while Park District officials have blamed the pandemic job market.

Officials have said they hope to open public pools June 23, but lifeguards are still in short supply.

The Park District is offering a “boatload” of perks to entice applicants, including $600 signing bonuses.

YMCA leaders said they believe Swim for Success could make a meaningful impact if implemented on a broader scale.

“We see this as the first step to making this something that can be replicated that can support all communities throughout Chicago,” La Luz said.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_