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Expanding My Horizons and Exploring Opportunities that I Never Thought Possible

Nashville. The Music City. Home of hot chicken. The Birthplace of bluegrass music. And the bright and energetic background of the Gaylord Opryland

“You will be with JEM now.” This is what my pool manager told me back in 2018. I remember hating the idea of switching lifeguarding companies because I had always been with StarGuard. However, I believe this has been the best decision of my life and I am so glad I stuck around. When someone hears the word “lifeguard” they either think Baywatch or some teenager with a whistle yelling “walk.” With JEM, I got to expand my horizons and explore opportunities that I never thought I would.  The first thing that caught my eye was how detailed my lifeguard training was; I felt confident to watch the water after the first day of class. The 10/20 aquatic philosophy, the new equipment, rotating strategies, emergency action plans, everything looked like someone spent a lot of time creating these and putting care into it.

When I first heard of the JEM travel, I knew this was something I HAD to try. I have been hopping with the travel program between Illinois, Colorado, and Hawai’i.  Illinois is my home base, and I get to travel between different facilities within the state, meet with amazing people and train future lifeguards.

Colorado and Hawai’i locations have taught me how to be more confident in my skills and how to be a better leader and person.

The Gaylord Rockies Resort in Denver, Colorado was one of my favorite facilities to manage. The staff there really made me feel like I belonged, and I even considered moving to Colorado!

My second facility of choice is the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in O’ahu Hawai’i. The view itself was breathtaking. While guarding, just the ambiance and people made the job fun, and the hours faster.

Now that I pointed out all the fun stuff. I want to mention that at the end of the day, let’s not forget that we have a job to do. Yes, your workdays can be long. Yes, first aid emergencies will happen. Yes, just like with all jobs, some days might not be great, but some days could be the best of your life. After your shift is when the adventures, exploration, and fun begin.

After finishing up my shifts in Hawai’i, my favorite things to do were snorkeling, cruising around the state, surfing, and seashell collecting. But snorkeling was my favorite thing to do. The second I submerge my face in the ocean, it is like seeing a different world. The beautiful corals, sea turtles, and rainbow fish!

I loved managing the Colorado facility as it provided me with challenges that tested my leadership skills and my knowledge of first aid and medical emergencies. Those challenges made me a more confident, empathetic, and better manager – the person I am today. My favorite pastime in Colorado was exploring the city of Denver and visiting some amazing museums, zoos, and the drive-thru safari.

If you told 16-year-old me that I would end up pursuing a whole career in aquatics, I probably would have said you were lying and that sounds stupid. Getting to know the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to “just be a lifeguard” is so intriguing and interesting that now I cannot see myself pursuing any other career but in aquatics.

Currently, I have decided to go back to school and pursue a degree that would further expand my knowledge of the aquatic industry. I cannot be more thankful to JEM for being flexible with my school schedule and seeing the value that I can provide for the company. I will be attending Illinois State University starting in January 2023 and I am excited for this next step in my life and career.

Go Redbirds!

-Alex Khodan

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