All Rights Reserved
If a lifeguard at the Grandview Heights Municipal Pool is hard to understand, bear with him. He might still be learning the English language.
The private company that took over management of the pool this year, and also manages several others in central Ohio, hires international students to help fill the gap in the lifeguarding ranks.
Anton Ilyin of Ukraine and Khaled Lahloub of Jordan are two of the seven university students working at the Grandview and Gahanna city pools.
"I hope to improve my English, and I want to see the world," said 19-year-old Ilyin, who is studying law in Ukraine.
Lahloub, 21, is studying mechanical engineering in Jordan. His English is better than Ilyin's, and both like communicating with their young American co-workers.
"It's good for exchange of culture," Lahloub said.
Home-grown lifeguard Josh Smith, 18, said the locals enjoy learning from the international students as well.
"They're getting to understand more and get the slang down," Smith said. "They're really good lifeguards. None of them has had to do anything drastic, but they know what they're doing."
The international students are trained and certified by the American Red Cross, said Michael Brown of Pool Management Group in Atlanta. The company is the parent of Columbus Pool Management. Its clients include other public and private pools such as Canal Winchester, the Defense Supply Center and the Pool at the Continent.
"We recruit kids from all over the world," Brown said. The company has a Red Cross training center in Bulgaria; working in the United States is popular with young Eastern Europeans.
Pool Management has 67 international students working as lifeguards among 3,500 it hires in the U.S., Brown said.
"The local kids who did a good job last year got first shot at the jobs," which is a U.S. Department of State requirement, he said. The international students are paid the same as the local lifeguards.
Grandview hired Columbus Pool Management because of the turnover in pool managers and the difficulty in finding enough lifeguards, Parks and Recreation Director Sean Robey said. Pool Management Group has been in business 30 years and in Ohio since 1997, Brown said; it also has teams in Dayton and Cincinnati.
"When you get a call in April that your pool manager got a full-time job, you have to hunt for a new one and train them," Robey, who has worn the pool manager's hat in addition to running the department, said.
Grandview is paying Pool Management almost $135,000 this year to manage and maintain the pool. The city will evaluate the company's performance at the end of the year, city Finance Director Robert Dvoraczky said.
This is the first trip to the United States for Ilyin and Lahloub. They'll work for four months and travel for one.
They live with five other international students in an extended-stay hotel on the East Side. Although their place has a kitchen, Lahloub has a favorite American cuisine.
"People eat at a lot of restaurants here, fast-food restaurants. I like the fast-food breakfast," he said. "At home, we have to cook every day."
Outdoor pools were new to both of them. "We have just inside swimming pools in Ukraine," Ilyin said.
He also put in a plug for his homeland: "I think Ukrainians are more beautiful girls."
Lahloub, a devout Muslim working amid swimsuit-clad people, declined to comment about girls.
"It's complicated," he said.