STILLWATER — The scene at the Stillwater Municipal Pool made Audrey Scott's heart pound.
One second, a young girl was flying off the diving board.
The next, there was a cry for help followed by silence as the child's head slipped beneath the water.
Without a moment's hesitation, Scott leapt off her guard's tower nearly five feet above the pool's surface and dove to scoop the flailing child to safety, rescuing the girl from the 400,000-gallon pool.
“It was very nerve-wracking because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this isn't happening,'” Scott said.
“I told myself ‘I have to do this.' My heart was just pounding when I pulled her up. Like ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just did that.' I started shaking like crazy, but it's rewarding knowing you saved a life.”
Scott, 18, said she knew before school was out that she wanted lifeguarding to be her summer job this year.
She went through the rigorous training to get certified, passing tests of endurance in the pool by treading water for two minutes without the use of her hands, retrieving bricks from the bottom of the pool and, of course, learning how to pull a person from a pool and, if necessary, bring them back to life through CPR.
For a soon-to-be high school senior, it's a pretty intense first job.
“I think it's a lot of pressure,” Scott said.
“You are in charge of lives here. We have fun, but we all take our jobs very seriously. If I take my eyes off the pool for even a second, that could be when someone slips under.”
‘Perfect summer job'
Danny Williams, the pool manager, said he hires about 10 guards to watch over his pool every summer and knows how great a job it is for teenagers.
“You have to be on your toes all the time, so it's a bit taxing,” Williams said. “But at the same time, they are learning skills and working in high-pressure situations that most kids their age won't have experience in until later in life. I think it's the perfect summer job.”
The state of the summer job market for those ages 16 to 19 is as poor as it has been since World War II, according to a report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
More than 70 percent of teens nationwide were without a job during the summers of 2010 and 2011, and that number is supposed to increase in 2012, according to the study.
But Oklahoma is much better off than other states, boasting a 10 percent unemployment rate for those ages 16 to 19.
It's the lowest percentage in the U.S., according to the report.
Scott said she is happy she has a summer job as a lifeguard. Most of her friends have struggled to find any kind of work this summer.
“They've applied everywhere and have come up empty in Stillwater,” Scott said.
“I've grown up at the lake so I've always wanted to be a lifeguard. When I got the job, I felt very relieved.”
Job at pool not easy
Williams said he would love to hire nearly double the amount of guards and aids he has because of how tiring being out in the sun for 12 hours a day is.
But with the economy the way it is and the pool being run from city tax dollars, it's all he could do to get the number of employees he has now.
“I have so many people that come here so excited to work, but by the end of the summer they don't even want to answer my calls because they are exhausted,” Williams said.
“I guarantee the clocks won't drown because the guards are watching those like crazy.”
Williams said he wishes more teens could get the experience of having a summer job as a lifeguard. His first job was as a lifeguard at age 18.
Even though Williams teaches during the winter months, he said he considers being a guard his true passion.
“I got too old to play at the pool so I decided to work there,” he said.