The upkeep of the Pierce College aquatic center

Many students on campus may not know this but there are classes that start before 7 a.m.

If you think that’s way too early to be on a school campus consider this. The swimming pool on campus opens at 5:30 a.m. Deborah Hefter, 28, has been the swimming pool supervisor at Pierce College for past five years and those early mornings are all part of the job.

From her office windows Hefter has a clear view of the pool area. This morning only a few swimmers are doing laps as she finishes some paperwork. Although she wears the mid-thigh red shorts typical of the lifeguards on duty, Hefter is in charge of the entire staff of nearly 50 lifeguards on campus along with maintaining the facilities and working closely with the pool technician. This means she has the responsibility of updating the lifeguards’ training, from organising health and safety refreshers to putting them on first aid courses like Toronto First Aid C2C.

“I do all the purchasing of supplies, and budgeting and scheduling for the other programs the pool offers such as swim classes,” Hefter says. “I do have a dean that I report to and I work with the pool technician, and I have a staff of about 50 lifeguards, but it’s pretty much me holding the reins.”

For 11 years prior to gaining her current position Hefter had been working in aquatics either as a lifeguard or swim instructor for the city of Los Angeles until she returned to Pierce College, her alma mater, to interview for the position of swimming pool supervisor.

“About a year after I graduated from CSUN I found out that the gentlemen who was working here was going to retire,” Hefter says. “I came in to interview and the day I came in they handed me the keys and said you’re it.”

The pool is open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Hefter is there all day but her responsibilities continue year-round as the pool stays open for lap swimming, programs offered through the extension office, and youth swim classes and swim teams along with the yearly lifeguard training and certification. When you run operations at a swimming pool facility, you may need to have your own pool business software in order to make sure everything runs smoothly at your pool.

Samantha Buliavac, 21, a psychology major, is a lifeguard and swimming instructor. The training Hefter puts her lifeguards through is designed to test their endurance and skill including working with lifting weights from the bottom of the pool to simulate carrying someone.

“It was a week straight of training with eight hour days. Each day was a different aspect,” Buliavac says. “There would be rescues in the pool, then CPR, then first aid.”

While Hefter works her crew to be best they can be she balances that work ethic with trying to make the pool a welcoming and inviting environment.

Angel Rosales, 23, is a Child Development major with a minor in psychology, he is also a lifeguard and swimming instructor who is one of 50 lifeguards on the staff that Hefter oversees.

“Every time you come here you get a great greeting. It doesn’t matter who you are. She cares for the pool and how it runs and keeps a friendly environment where everyone is allowed to come in,” Rosales says. “That’s the kind of person she is. She wants people to de-stress and relax.”

Hefter has worked to cultivate this environment and says it’s taken awhile to figure out the process of how to get things done and how to go through the appropriate channels to get what she needs but she has built the pool into a positive part of this community college.

“When I first got here there was a kind of negative energy around the pool. The old pool manager didn’t really do a great job of promoting programs and making everyone feel supported,” Hefter says. “So that’s really been my goal is programming and making sure everyone feels like they’re part of our community and not like an outsider just coming in.”