by Brittany DiCologero and Justine Conry
This Disney College Program role interview features Justine Conry, who worked as a lifeguard at Old Key West and Saratoga Springs during the 2016 Spring Advantage program. Justine will resume her role as a lifeguard CP in the Fall 2017 program, and she will be graduating in May from CSU Long Beach where she majors in Film.
Q: What made you want to do the Disney College Program?
A: I really wanted to do the program because I had just seen two of my really good friends do their programs (one in Disneyland and the other at Walt Disney World) and it seemed like a cool opportunity. I was also on track to graduate in Fall 2016, which would have put me in a weird place with leases and the possibility of grad school, so I saw this as a break and as a cheaper alternative to studying abroad.
Q: What was your role and location? Was it your first choice? If not, what was?
A: My role was a lifeguard! My home location was Old Key West and I was also trained at Saratoga Springs! I also got deployed to Yacht & Beach and Boardwalk. Lifeguarding wasn’t necessarily my first choice but I think I was just happy to apply and I didn’t really care what role I had!
Q: What was your training like?
A: Training was A LOT. We had our swim test a day or two after check-in so we could find out if we were going to be a shallow or deep guard. Then just one day after Traditions, we started our Ellis training. Ellis is the national group that certifies CPR and water rescue skills and Disney requires you to pass their training before going into your actual location training. Your location training might be pushed back if you don’t pass Ellis.
It was about three days long and I was stressed, but I passed the first time and it was fine. We then went into our location training which was about four days. Back for my program, guards were trained at both OKW and SSR so we had a day or two at each. Now, the resorts are split so you only get trained at one.
Q: What did you like most about your role?
A: I LOVED the hours! You would get either the morning or night shift and as a CP I often got the night shift, which was from about 3:00 pm to about 10:30 pm. Never too early, never too late. My location also had the most amazing guards, the entire recreation team felt like a little family and I loved it. Also, my tan was the best thing in the world. Honestly also that picture [above] with Olaf was after five months of being in the sun almost 24/7 so I would also warn anyone there during the spring/summer to use lots of sunscreen unless you want to end up that dark!
Q: What did you like least?
A: As a lifeguard, I felt like I was under constant stress because people really COULD die if you didn’t do your job correctly. That messed with my anxiety a lot at first, but I was able to control that after about a month. Ellis can also come by whenever they want and conduct random tests just to make sure the team knows their stuff, which also made me super paranoid (but luckily I always missed them and I felt blessed). That feeling of anxiety is probably the worst part of guarding but that could also just be because I’m an anxious person.
Q: Would you recommend this role to a friend?
A: I think I’d recommend it! We never had to outright deal with angry guests unlike people in the parks and it was nice to work at a resort away from all the business of the parks.
Q: What advice would you have for new CPs in this role?
A: For new CPs, I would just say to try not to stress too much. Your Ellis trainers and your location trainers are all there to help you succeed and they will help you out. You’ll have a lifeguard family and it’s amazing. They will help you during your difficult crowded days and remember to lean on them if you’re stressing too much.
Q: What have you been up to since your program ended?
A: Since my program ended, I went back to CSU Long Beach and will be graduating with my BA in Film and a minor in Classics. I currently work as an Attractions CM at Disneyland and will be going back to WDW for my CP in Fall 2017.