All he was looking for was a summer job, but what he found was a passion for helping others. Ryan was 17 and on the hunt for a place to work over the summer, he joined the North Y as a lifeguard not expecting to stay long. That was seven years ago. “Right away I could sense from my supervisors that this could be more than just a summer job,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s role with the Y has been ever-changing, he has been a family activity center and teen center attendant, lifeguard, lead lifeguard, Manager on Duty, and has helped with day camp and custodial. “Doing a little bit of everything has allowed me to see what goes on and experience how we help all different types of people,” Ryan said.
Some of the most impactful moments for Ryan come from teaching swim lessons. After finishing a round of lessons, parents will approach him to see if they can get him to teach the next set of swim lessons for their child, “it makes me feel good, it lets me know that I’m doing something right and the parents value and trust me.” As a lead lifeguard Ryan is able to pass on good habits and assist in growing the rest of the lifeguards personally and professionally, “I just love talking with staff. Being able to help them improve around the pool and to become better people…I’ve had some wonderful and supportive supervisors at the Y, they’ve always had my back, I’d like to keep that going.”
Ryan began lifeguarding like many others before he started teaching lessons, ensuring kids and adults are safe while learning, playing or having family time. “Lifeguarding is more of a responsibility than many realize. You are there to prevent bad situations and to make sure things go smoothly, there is a lot of trust there.” Ryan admits he was a bit nervous when he first began, “it was scary at first. But as soon as it’s time to start, you feel prepared.” He remembers his first save vividly, “a kid fell off his float noodle and got frantic…in that moment all of the training and preparation clicked. Before I knew it I was in the water taking him to safety.”
When he’s not around the pool you can find Ryan at the front desk, filling in as a Manager on Duty. Sometimes kids will hit up Ryan for candy, but he makes them work for it. “I will write up some math problems for them to do, and most of the time they nail it,” Ryan said. When doing the math problems becomes too easy, Ryan asks them to exercise their imagination. “I would make them give me a noun and an adjective, then I’d draw it. As time goes on they get funnier and wackier, and you can see them really think about what to do next.”
Ryan is finishing up his Associate’s Degree and spends much of his free time riding bikes, playing video games, drawing, and being active in the great Spokane summers. Ryan says if you see him around the North Y ask him to draw you something, or just say hello.