Lifeguard and Swim Instructor Nakita Higgins is no stranger to the water. Since coming to the United States for college from his native island of Nassau, Bahamas in 2013, the 24-year-old has found purpose beyond his full-time job at the North Austin YMCA pool by connecting with neighbors through Swim Lessons and staying vigilant during free swim. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why he finds community at the pool is because of his island roots, where walking the shore and spontaneous beach days was commonplace. While his beginnings may differ from his American colleagues, Higgins’ story of progressing at the Y through Aquatics and professional development is one of many that Y Staff everywhere share.
The quick rise to leadership and professional growth is often experienced by Y Staff. Many go from working an entry-level position to serving their communities in leadership roles in just a few short months. No matter how quickly opportunities for advancement may come, the personal transformation Y Staff experiences lasts longer than any shift or part-time role. Follow along as Higgins shares his journey from the sandy shores of the Bahamas to the swim lanes at the City of Austin/YMCA North Austin Community Rec Center in a whirlwind five years while finding himself along the way.
From Sandy Shores to Swim Lessons
2013: Graduates from St. Augustine’s College, Nassau, Bahamas
“Growing up, college was always the ultimate end goal for my education. After graduating high school, I was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) where I ran track and studied environmental science. I had visited the states on many occasions growing up but I never spent more than a two-week period. Overall, making new friends and being accustomed to the culture made it an easy transition.”
2017 (December): Graduates from University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR with a B.S. in Environmental Science
2018 (June): Applies to the Y for a Lifeguard position
“While I was at UCA I lifeguarded at the pool on campus and during the summer I did the same thing at the local Boys and Girls Club. I also taught swim lessons there. After moving to Austin and starting a new job, I felt like I needed to do more. I did some research online and asked a friend who said the North YMCA had an opening, so I put my application in online.”
2018 (July): Gets hired as a Lifeguard at the North Austin YMCA
“After submitting my application online, I also called the aquatics director that same day and we scheduled an interview where I was offered the job. I was ready to get to work!”
2018 (July): Starts evening and weekend shifts as part of the Lifeguard Staff
“My favorite part about being a Lifeguard at the Y is the members. Taking the time to talk to a few and hearing their life stories or life goals is a cool job perk. Each member is different and has their very own unique story. Also, seeing the joy on a kid’s face when they jump in the water is a huge bonus.”
2018 (August): Gets promoted to Lifeguard and Swim Instructor
“There was swim instructor shortage at our branch and my manger asked me if I wanted to teach. I’ve taught swim lessons before so I accepted the offer. I’m glad I accepted the job because I get the opportunity to teach a really important life skill. It brings me so much joy to see a kid going from being terrified of the water to jumping in by themselves.”
2018 (December): Receives thank you card from Swim Lessons student
“During a lifeguard shift a little boy jumped into the pool and he hit his chin on the pool edge. Immediately, I knew something was seriously wrong. I ran to him and notice he had a huge gash underneath his chin and was bleeding a lot. Proper first aid was given. A few weeks later he came back with a thank you card. It brought so much joy to me that he was thankful for what I did for him. His mother told me that the doctor said I did such a good job, he didn’t even need any stitches. Moments like that makes it worth while working at the Y.”
2019 (April): Since Higgins’ first day of work as a Swim Instructor, the North Austin Y Aquatics Staff has successfully taught more than 300 Swim Lessons classes to a total of 1,300 people and counting.
2019 (May): Reflecting on upcoming one-year Y anniversary
“As I approach my one-year anniversary at the Y, It’s been a pleasure to know that I’ve had an impact on a few members. Teaching kids and adults how to swim is just a small part of it. I’ve jumped in and saved a few kids from drowning, which I take great pride in. But in addition to being there when things go wrong, meaningful connections have impacted me the most. I’ve given an senior member who uses a walker the confidence to depend less on the equipment and more on her own strength. Whenever I see her now, she always reminds that I was one of the only few people that believed in her ability. This is what the Y is all about to be me—impacting each member in a positive way, and in a way that they will always remember.”
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