Living close to the Delta means that it is important for children to understand the importance of water safety and being able to help someone in trouble.
With so many bodies of water in its parks, the East Bay Regional Park District understands more than anyone the importance of being prepared. That is why it has added a summer junior lifeguard program.
Classes are taught throughout the park system and locally at Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch. Each weeklong session takes children ages 8 to 12 on a different journey teaching them water safety and CPR through fun activities.
"This year we've expanded the program and added two additional weeks," said Junior Lifeguard instructor Erin Reynolds.
A former East Bay Parks Junior Lifeguard attendee herself, Reynolds, along with her co-instructor Jacob Sandy, keeps the program going at Contra Loma.
With the extension of the program this year, sessions will continue to the second week in August. Although that's after most public schools have started back up, it remains an option for children who go to private schools or are home-schooled.
"Those interested must pass a 25-yard swim test, but that's really simple for most kids who've been in the water before," Reynolds said.
Each day participants enjoy a variety of beach and water activities designed to promote fitness, self-esteem and teamwork, Reynolds said.
"The general focus is given to personal safety and skills that will benefit their community," she said.
Depending on how many weeks of the program they attend, students acquire a variety of skills.
Each weeklong theme includes "East Bay Watch" where kids learn open-water lifeguard skills.
There's also "Survivor: Junior Lifeguard," which teaches them how to survive in the wild and to know whether a helicopter recognizes an S.O.S.
In the "Blue Hawaii" segment kids learn to use stand-up paddle boards and diving masks.
Reynolds has been teaching the program for the past three years and sees students return each year. When returning children turn 13 they can become a Junior Lifeguard Aide.
"I've seen a lot of kids build their confidence in the water," Sandy said.
"There are a lot of games and activities that make it fun to learn."
Registration is required for each week.
The park prefers people to sign up no later than the Thursday before the start of a new session, but it will accept in-person registrants the first day of the program. Sandy recommends coming 20 minutes early.
For more information, call 888-327-2757, option 2, or register online at www.ebparksonline.org.