Metro Parks’ new program offers teens in low-income homes a job as a lifeguard

“I always looked up to the lifeguard and I want kids to look up to me like that,” Zeimah said.
Metro Parks trains students to become lifeguards
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:51 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation is hiring lifeguards with a new method to combat another nationwide shortage this summer.

Inside the Napier Elementary School pool, Cornetta Zeimah prepares for a job in a very important seat.

“I always looked up to the lifeguard and I want kids to look up to me like that,” Zeimah said.

She doesn’t have the title yet, but as she kicks and swims inside the Napier pool, she’s already making money.

“I knew lifeguarding was a paid job, but being paid to train is amazing,” said Zeimah.

Antwan Majors, Metro Parks and Recreation Special Programs Coordinator has never seen anything like this.

“This is the first paid lifeguard academy ever,” Majors said.

Through Metro Parks’ Providing Opportunities for Wealth-building and Economic Resilience (POWER) youth program, students are paid $15 an hour to train and become a lifeguard. All they must do is take a course at the Napier pool for two hours a day for 10 days.

Majors said while Metro Parks will take anyone who wants to be a lifeguard, this program is targeted toward those who live in lower-income housing and live close to a pool.

For the Lifeguard Academy, there are only 10 spots, but Majors said even those are difficult to fill.

The problem is finding kids who can swim. According to Metro Parks, data shows 60% of African American kids cannot swim. In fact, Zeimah and her fellow classmate, Montrell Clark, are both teenagers who just learned.

“This community has been without a pool for maybe five or six years,” Majors said. “So, swimming in this area hasn’t been too current.”

While Zeimah and Clark look forward to more money, Majors doesn’t need it.

“Instant gratification, that’s the pay in itself for me,” he said.

As for Zeimah, she wants others to hop on board.

“Do it, it’s worth it, it’s two hours out of the day and school is over,” she said. “There’s not really anything better.”

The students will have to pass a test at the end of the course. Those elements include:

  • Three hundred yards continuous swim, using the front crawl, breaststroke, or a combination of both.
  • Tread water for two minutes using your legs only. Hands must be under armpits.
  • Timed event - swim 20 yards, retrieve a ten-pound brick from nine feet deep, return to the surface, and swim with both hands on the brick back to starting point in under 1 minute and 40 seconds.
  • Exit the water without using a ladder or steps.

For those interested in participating in the program, contact Antwan Majors at or 615-256-4474.