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Lifeguarding Dreams Put on Hold by the Pandemic

Two Las Vegas high school juniors and aspiring lifeguards offer a glimpse of their lives now that school is closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

By Faviola Leyva

April 15, 2020

At the beginning of the school year, Las Vegas teens Beamber Davis and Elijah Garcia were learning how to swim under the instruction of Elisa Marcheschi Hickey (Las Vegas ’14), better known as Coach Hickey by her students. Swimming is more than just a fun activity for them and their peers: Drowning is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death for children in Clark County, Nevada. Having spent months perfecting their swimming skills, Beamber and Elijah, juniors at Western High School, imagined they would be preparing for their lifeguard tests or working as lifeguards this spring, but they’ve had to put these goals on hold.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak closed schools statewide on March 15, and recently announced they would remain closed through the end of the school year. Despite this, Coach Hickey worked to get all students district-wide access to an online lifeguarding curriculum from the American Red Cross. Over 60 students have signed up. The goal is for students to complete their lifeguard certification online and get their in-water training through their future employer once pools re-open.

Beamber and Elijah open up about what their lives are like now that school is closed and swimming is impossible because of the coronavirus outbreak.

© Photo Beamber Davis Beamber Davis was hired on the spot for her first job at the Aria Resort and Casino as a lifeguard in January but due to COVID-19, the popular Las Vegas resort has suspended operations until further notice.

What does your day look like now?

Beamber Davis: I treat it like it’s just summer, actually. I go to sleep later than usual, around 1 a.m., and then I wake up around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. After that, I get up; I take some pictures of myself because I’m probably looking cute that morning. I get ready. I make breakfast. I clean up my room if it’s dirty or messed up. And then after that, I just watch Netflix and wait for my mom to come home from work. That’s pretty much it. I just stay inside.

Elijah Garcia: Now that there’s no school, there’s really nothing else to do besides chores or go jogging. I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, and I wake up around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.  And when I wake up, I brush my teeth and I just stay on my phone. I go on all social media, back and forth. I go on YouTube mostly. There’s this YouTube channel called Bon Appétit and this lady named Claire makes a gourmet version of a Kit Kat.

I also help my parents around the house. My parents also like to do family game night; we get the family together because we usually never spend time together in normal life. Before quarantine, everyone was usually busy. So now we play charades or Uno.

Are you doing online classes?

Beamber: It just depends on the teacher. They put out some work to do if you want to or if you’re the type of person who has to work constantly and likes to get things done. Other than that, we don’t have classes. They just give out random activities. Sometimes they just reach out and see if anyone still needs computers, and they reach out to people to make sure that they’re OK. 

Elijah: I haven’t really gotten any assignments. We’ve been having meetings once a week. Usually it was our English teacher or our math teacher wanting to get everybody together, check up on everyone, and learn a little bit about our quarantine life. Coach Hickey made a Google classroom meeting with all swim members on March 30th. It was really nice to see everybody again! It was cool to see everybody’s face, happy and healthy.

Do you feel like you’re able to keep up with everything?

Beamber: To be honest I feel like I actually can. I work well under pressure. It depends on how much work I have but I haven’t really been having much, so it’s actually not that bad. I could stay at home a little bit longer but I’d rather be in class and have that interaction with my teachers.

Elijah: I can keep up with my own personal life and everything going on around me, but with the coronavirus news, not really. There’s too much information on the news and everything. Everyone is saying so many things about the coronavirus and just confusing it or mixing everything up. So I don’t really pay attention. I’m waiting for it to be over.

“I am really hopeful because this virus will blow over, and I know that right after all of this, normal life won’t quite resume, but we’re all going to get back into it.”

Elijah Garcia

What do you miss about school?

Beamber: I actually really do miss the teachers a lot. My favorite teachers are my crime and justice teacher, Mrs. Thornton, and my culinary teacher, Mr. Aquino. I definitely miss crime and justice the most because I’m really close with Mrs. Thornton and talk a lot with her in the morning and after school. In class, we used to do a lot of fun stuff. We were doing a fingerprint analysis recently where we looked at our fingerprints; saw the differences and what they were called.

For culinary, we actually make lots of food. We’ve been making sushi lately, spam musubi [a popular snack composed of a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with seaweed] and cookies. I miss going to work, to be honest. I’d rather be at work than be at school because work is more fun for me. Four months ago, I applied at the Aria and I actually got hired on the spot. They hired me for a lifeguard position and that’s mainly why I miss it because it’s a lifeguard position.

Elijah: Not going to lie, waking up early. Many people hate waking up early but something about it for me feels nice. I can’t explain it. It’s a very good feeling inside. So waking up, going to school, and just seeing all of my friends every day, hanging out with them. I’m a social butterfly, I like to talk to everyone and get to know everyone.

Going to class and seeing my teachers every day, it was really fun. And then seeing Coach Hickey every single day, she was just a day-changer. Every time I was sad or mad, she would always be there. Just her energy and her spirit, it’s just really nice. She loves the team and she’s always putting us first, which is awesome. Every single day she would just change up my mood into the best one that it could be. And I miss going to practice every day and swimming together with my team, with all my close friends.

What swimming skills were you working on before all afterschool activities were cancelled?

Beamber: We were working at the Municipal Pool on our laps, our strokes, how to stay above water, and seeing how good we were [as swimmers]. After that, we were doing “dry-land,” which is basically us on the school field doing warm-ups, workouts and keeping us conditioned. We couldn’t get into the water because the Municipal Pool season was coming to a close.

Elijah: I am captain of the Western High School swim team and we would go to practice every single day. Our season was barely starting before the coronavirus happened. Once they cancelled everything, afterschool sports and everything, that’s when everyone realized that we we’re not going to have a season probably anymore.

And then everything just went downhill from there. We were all devastated and sad about it. We were all ready for our first official meet on that Saturday and that got cancelled. Everything was cancelled. All school activities, dances, and get-togethers. Our seniors, it’s probably way harder for them. 

The New Lifeguards of West Las Vegas

Beamber Davis and Elijah Garcia hope to return to the pool—and their plans of working as lifeguards—when life returns to normal and the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

How are you coping with the fact that you’re no longer able to swim and work towards your lifeguard certification?

Beamber: To be honest, it really, really sucks because I have nothing to do here. It’s kind of draining because you’re waiting impatiently. When am I going to go back to work? When are things going to get back to normal? It leaves you very blank. I miss my co-workers and the managers and just being a lifeguard and keeping people safe. I started earning $11 an hour. My first check was about $200. I was ready for June and summer to hit. That’s when a lot more people are coming [to Las Vegas]. It’s just fun watching people enjoy themselves in the water.

Elijah: I’m coping with it sort of well but I’m really sad that I can’t swim anymore. I love swimming. That was something that I would every single day. I was always looking forward to it because it was the best part of my day, to be in the pool and just swim everything out. Forget about everything. I’m OK with holding off on my lifeguard certification because I know I could still get it after all this blows over. I could still continue working for it.

Coach Hickey made a Google classroom for everyone who is interested in becoming a lifeguard for the summer. She is updating us on everything. She’s really great and on top of everything for the lifeguard certification. Throughout this hard time, the American Red Cross is giving free online lifeguarding courses, so I’ve been doing that.

Surely but slowly I’m working towards it. I am really hopeful because this virus will blow over, and I know that right after all of this, normal life won’t quite resume, but we’re all going to get back into it. We just need to keep moving forward and whatever happens, happens.

This is the latest installment of our series, "COVID-19: Community Voices," in which students, parents and guardians, and other members of our communities discuss how they are coping with school closings, social distancing, and other challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak. Read the first installment, “I’m Ready to Go Back to School,” and if you'd like to tell your story, please email us.