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Jessica Ballou, Published June 10 2012

It's My Job: Lifeguard says it’s stressful to be responsible for others’ lives

FARGO – Even on days when the temperature is over 95 degrees, like last Saturday, Kathryn Berg keeps watch as a lifeguard at Island Park Pool.

Growing up, Berg swam for the YMCA Gators, a local swim team for children of all ages that practiced in Island Park.

“I pretty much lived here since I was 7 years old,” she said.

Her other friends were applying for jobs as lifeguards when Berg was 15 years old, so she did, too. She’s spent each summer working at the pool since.

Berg recently graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, where she double-majored in English and psychology. While she looks for full-time employment, she’s living with her parents and working at the pool.

Q: What is the most fun aspect of being a lifeguard?

A: Everything. I really like the people I work with. I’m really good friends with almost everybody.

I get to sit outside all day; you can’t beat that.

Some days can go pretty slow.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

We’ve never had a serious rescue here before, but we always have to be ready for one.

It’s stressful knowing we have everyone’s lives in our hands.

Sometimes people panic or freak out when they don’t know how deep the water is, and we swim them over to the wall. I’d say that happens once every two weeks or once a week.

What’s the most difficult thing?

The hours are kind of a pain. I have to work pretty much every weekend.

Today I got here at 10 (a.m.) and I’ll be here until 8 (p.m.), and when swimming lessons start, I’ll be here 9 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.) every day. It can be hard to have a life outside here.

It’s my sixth year teaching swimming lessons. I have more of a swimming background than some other lifeguards, so I teach more of the older kids, and other lifeguards teach the younger kids.

I really like (my job), otherwise I wouldn’t do it for eight years.

Most people work here for years at a time. … We call ourselves lifers.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509