Paige Gurich ’21 is currently a senior on the women’s water polo team here at Chapman University. A Psychology major with a Leadership minor, Paige is also in the Accelerated Master of Arts in Leadership Development program at Chapman, earning her masters degree in a 4+1 program.

Paige has been working as a non-career lifeguard for the Marine Safety Division of the Long Beach Department for five years. She has also had the opportunity to use her leadership skills as a Junior Guard Instructor for the last three years. A camper in the Junior Guard program for six years, Paige is thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the program that taught her so much as a kid, teaching 9-17 year olds about lifeguarding culture, water safety and surf racing.

“This summer, however, was unlike any summer prior due to COVID-19,” Paige explained. “In the weeks leading up to the program, we as instructors were not even sure it it was possible to hold the program and follow all of the necessary protocol changes.”

Paige and her coworkers brainstormed and used trial and error to develop changes and new procedures to keep both the instructors and the kids in the program safe. “We integrated daily temperature checks when children arrived in the morning and afternoon sessions,” Paige said. “We cut down the ratio of instructors to children to 20 kids to one adult, whereas in previous years it was 30 to one.”

The Junior Guard instructors also put strict no-contact rules into place. Individual groups were not allowed to interact with any other group for any reason. Kids were also enforced to follow proper social distancing protocols while they were at Junior Guards.

Each child was also issued a mask as part of their uniform. Both instructors and Junior Guards were required to wear their masks at all times unless they were running, swimming, or doing other various calisthenics.

“This was probably the hardest obstacle to overcome, especially because my group was 9-11 year olds.”

“As an instructor, there was definitely a lot of adversity I had to overcome, but it was so worth it. The kids were so grateful and were stoked to be there every day and it was nice because it gave me some sense of normalcy in my life.”

Paige said just being able to complete the program was a victory in itself. “At the beginning of the program the Junior Guard team was very skeptical as to if we would make it through the whole six-week program without some type of outbreak,” she explained. “Fortunately we did and it was a huge accomplishment.”

Paige said she most definitely has being a student-athlete at Chapman to thank for how she was able to handle this summer. She was able to put her leadership skills to the ultimate test, setting up lessons for the Junior Guard instructors which helped them to become a highly productive team throughout the summer.

Paige also credits her coursework at Chapman and the Division III model with her success this summer.

“Having this opportunity is definitely thanks to the culture of Division III athletics at Chapman. While training and devoting time to becoming a stronger athlete I am also able to spend time on my classes and study things I love.”