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A complete lap: From lifeguard to pool director

Staff writer

The new director of Marion Aquatic Center credits her jobs as a lifeguard with leading her to a career in teaching swimming skills and water safety.

Kristine Meyerson grew up in Hillsboro and graduated from high school in 1982.

Her father, Paul Jantzen, was a science teacher. Her mom, Elaine, was a librarian at the city library.

While in high school, Meyerson was a life guard at the city pool. That led to a lifelong career around aquatics.

After two years at Wichita State University, Meyerson transferred to the University of Houston and at age 21 took a part-time job as a lifeguard at a YMCA. She soon became its associate aquatics director.

After graduating in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in consumer science and merchandising, she went on to acquire master’s degrees in the arts and behavioral sciences.

She eventually became director of aquatics over all 28 YMCAs in Houston, a position she held until 2013.

While there, she developed a ground-breaking program called “Water Wise,” which was aimed at teaching children from low-income neighborhoods how to swim and be safe in the water.

With help from sponsors, she and her team would spend one week during the summer at various YMCAs in the inner city. Sometimes, they provided swimsuits for youngsters.

Meyerson also recruited inner city high school students to be lifeguards. They received credit for training she gave them.

The Water Wise program began to be used at other YMCAs around the country, including in Chicago.

From 2013 to 2016, Meyerson worked to secure financing to help YMCAs nationwide provide programs in water safety and drowning prevention.

She also taught at swim camps and helped write a lifeguard book.

She worked as a private consultant from 2017 to 2021 in training and risk management strategies.

Her husband developed cancer and died in February 2020 after 25 years of marriage.

Feeling sad and alone, Meyerson decided to move to Colorado Springs to be near her son, who lived in Greeley. She directed aquatics activities for the YMCA Pikes Peak region.

After a year, she decided she wanted to come home and live among family and friends, so she settled in Hillsboro. Her parents are gone, but her daughter now lives in Kansas City.

She was interested when she found out the Marion school district was looking for a new aquatics director. After she saw the indoor pool and was sold on the job. She began in July of this year and is actively engaged in promoting the pool.

“My main goal is to see the pool used,” she said.

She teaches water aerobics from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

“My water aerobics ladies have been so nice to me,” she said. “It’s a great place to be.”

Saturday swimming lessons for elementary school children will resume after the first of the year.

Meyerson provides once a week swimming classes for special education students.

An adult class and a parent / child class proved to be popular. Several people have come from out of the county to participate.

Meyerson led a weeklong aquatics camp last summer to train lifeguards. Two individuals received certification.

She is reaching out to the community to get more people involved.

“I want people to get excited to come to the pool, where it is clean and organized,” she said.

She is working with Becky Suderman of Parents As Teachers to arrange pool activities for children enrolled in Suderman’s program.

Newton Swim Club has reached out to make Marion Aquatic Center a satellite pool.

Club members in fourth to sixth grade practice from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

Meyerson sees her job as payback for her upbringing in Marion County.

“I’m happy to give back to the community I grew up in,” she said.

She is certified in numerous fields including first aid, Red Cross and lifeguard, swim lesson instructor, and instructor for individuals with disabilities.

As an organizational leader, she has a track record of supporting and advocating for families of all backgrounds.

Last modified Nov. 29, 2023

 

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