I was first trained as a lifeguard via Red Cross, as that’s what my high school offered. So, when I was hired by JEM, I only needed to attend the second day of guard class since I was considered a renewal.
It has been a little over five years since I started. Yet, I remember my first day of lifeguard class like it was yesterday. I wish I had gone to both days from the start because what I saw was crazy. The class had at least 20 people in it with two instructors. When we were practicing CPR, I was confident I would do just fine, as I was sure of my skills. What I wasn’t aware of was that JEM operates on a whole different level, all other 19 class participants were in almost perfect sync; they were running through a CPR drill and all I could do was kneel there staring at the others because I was left dumbstruck, unable to keep up.
Their standard of care went above and beyond what I was originally taught, and everyone seemed to be on the same page but me. It was clear that there was a JEM way of doing things. Sure enough, I was guided by one of the lifeguard instructors and they caught me up to speed. I was now a JEM lifeguard!
Since then, it has been nothing but incredible sights. I watched as the facility I was hired to guard at had been completely transformed. JEM had just been contracted by the facility that hired me to guard, and they brought with them vast and simple changes that both had major impacts. These things were as simple as adding a small border division between two pools to increase safety, or adding entire standard operating procedures to better prepare the staff, like a built Emergency Action Plan. They were professional and responsible, held staff accountable, brought with them a system of filling reports, and completely reformed the way the facility operated for the better. When I found out we operated at a national and even international level, I had to wonder if our other facilities also operated under the same standards. I would soon find out when my first opportunity to travel came knocking at my door.
Thanks to JEM, I have seen and been to plenty of different facilities across the country. Each trip was almost an entirely fully expense paid trip; the company covered rental cars, hotel, the flight there and back, and ensured you had an additional add on to cover some of your food costs. When possible, they also ensured I had reasonable work hours and even allotted time/days off so I could be free to fully explore my surroundings. I was a 19-year-old kid, sharing stories with adults about how my lifeguarding job was flying me around the country. I loved every second of it, especially getting to know the staff and leaders of other facilities; these leaders are truly a different breed. I enjoyed picking their brains for information and their experiences. Each leader bringing their own unique skillset to the table and seeing how it all came together to operate as a single, functional, working machine.
There isn’t a single travel trip I have come back from where I didn’t come back with new tools and skills under my belt. I have friends laid out in different states that I cannot wait to visit again. I loved seeing how each facility operated, and how they solved their unique challenges. I especially loved testing all their unique aquatic features, like their slides (for safety reasons of course haha)!
With that said, some of my all-time favorite locations include Nashville, Tennessee at Gaylord Opryland’s Sound Waves; Grapevine, Texas at the Gaylord Texan’s Paradise Springs; Aurora, Colorado at the Gaylord Rocky’s Arapahoe Springs; Honolulu, Hawaii at their Disney Aulani resort; and Miami, Florida at their breath-taking man-made Lagoon, Sola Mia.
The very first facility I traveled to, and by far my favorite, was Arapahoe Springs at the Gaylord Rockies. I was given a room directly inside of the Gaylord Rockies Convention Center and it was breath-taking. Due to staying at the place where I was working, work was a five minute walk to the pool from my room.
Outside of work, both by myself and/or with the friendly staff of the locale, I explored Colorado. It was the first time I have ever scaled ten thousand feet above sea level. It got to a point where we started to see snow as we started to get higher and higher during our hike up a mountain trail. I explored both the city of Denver and Boulder with the staff as they took me out to explore and eat. During work it was fascinating to see the difference between how to manage a resort versus a park district pool. It was also a pleasure to socialize with all the guest who were coming to visit from different parts of the States and even outside of the United States. I won’t soon forget the memories made at each of the facilities both at work and outside that I have visited. I eagerly look forward to bettering myself on the next time I get to travel.
– Jimmy Mackintos