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Lifeguards protect an underused pool

Located near the entrance of campus — in between the Mills College soccer field and the Haas Gymnasium — lifeguards work each day maintain the College’s swimming facility. But they say the Mills community is underutilizing the services offered there.

A lifeguard at her station at Trefethen Aquatic Center. (Carrol Page)
A lifeguard at her station at Trefethen Aquatic Center. (Carrol Page)

The Trefethen Aquatic Center usually employs around 20 lifeguards during the semester, most of them Mills students.

The lifeguards agree that it is important to have the knowledge of how to swim and that it is never too late to learn.

Though Mills does offer swimming courses, the job of a lifeguard while on duty entails “watching people swim and making sure everyone is swimming safely,” said Natori Coleman, a sophomore Sociology major who has been a lifeguard at Mills for one year. “It is our job to respond to water rescue or land/water emergencies within 10 seconds of an incident. Lifeguards enforce rules for safety.”

“We spend a lot of hours training to stay ready to respond to any type of emergency at the pool. Our job is serious and we take it seriously,” said Coleman.

Emilie Nachtigall, a graduate Education student, said “We are highly certified in first aid, which is handy to have as human beings.”

A lifeguard practicing life-saving techniques in the pool. (Carrol Page)
A lifeguard practicing life-saving techniques in the pool. (Carrol Page)

The pool, which caters to lap swimmers, was built after the College received a donation made in memory of Eugene Trefethen, a long time Mills Trustee. The Trefethen Aquatic Center was completed in April 1998.

The facility offers a heated outdoor chlorine pool (which holds just a little over one and a half million gallons of water), a hot tub for Mills students and adults over 18 years, $2 towels, lockers and an experienced staff to make swimmers’ experience the best it can be. But lifeguards say community members and alumni tend to use the pool more than those who attend the College.

“The community members who come to use the pool only see the lifeguards. To the public, they are the faces of Mills,” said Erin Lucas, alumna and Assistant Swim Coach Instructor.

“Being a lifeguard is a whole other network. We don’t have to sit in an office. We are forced to be present and people really rely on us,” said senior Cherise Bentosino, who is going into her third year as a lifeguard. The studio art major said some students might not use the pool that much because it “is isolated on the far side of campus.”

Coleman said, “People should use the pool as a resource because it is one of, if not the best pools in the Bay Area. It is the cleanest, and is well organized.”