Soboba pool reopens with new safety rules and new lifeguards

Avellaka Arviso is one of the certified lifeguards who has worked at the Soboba sports complex pool since its safe reopening, July 6.

Mike Hiles, Special to Valley News

The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians’ tribal administration decided to have a safe reopening of its sports complex pool, July 6, and recently certified lifeguards were ready to go on duty.

The pool is open only on weekdays for three sessions each day with a limit of 30 people each session. Lifeguards take the temperature of each person upon arrival, and all visitors are required to wear masks when outside of the pool. After each session, everyone is asked to leave the pool area, and a 30-minute cleaning routine is performed.

Robert Cisneros, firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Soboba Fire Department, and firefighter-paramedic Mike Chidester were trained as lifeguards and instructors in June 2019 and rotated shifts at the sports complex pool. A request by Andy Silvas, director of Soboba Parks and Recreation, put together a program that would benefit the center.

Lifeguard Avellaka Arviso watches a young swimmer at the Soboba sports complex pool, July 13.

“I was asked to coordinate training, certification and pool coverage scheduling,” Cisneros said. “I was asked to run it due to my history of swift water rescue, 21 years of paramedic experience and willingness to accept the challenge.”

After the summer, it was determined that due to the work and personal schedules of fire department employees, more people needed to be certified, not just for daily open swim times but for after-hours private parties as well. Silvas obtained tribal council approval and additional funding for six more positions, and four people were certified in May and June. They include sports complex employees Ricardo Macias, Avellaka Arviso, Lawrence “Marshal” Oguinn and Julissa Ledesma. Firefighter-paramedic Keith Navarre completed the course in July, and another will complete the certification by August.

Applicants weren’t required to have previous experience, but they had to complete a rigorous swim test before completion. It included swimming nonstop laps for 300 yards – 12 laps in a 75-foot pool – treading water for five minutes and starting at the shallow end, a swim to the deep end to retrieve a 10-pound weight from the bottom of the pool and return it to the shallow end.

Arviso, who works most afternoon shifts at the pool, said that was the most challenging part of the entire certification process. She said the program’s timing was great as she plans to work as a lifeguard all summer before heading to college Sept. 1.

Kelli Hurtado and her 4-year-old granddaughter Tonla Hurtado Laurenzana enjoy swimming at the Soboba sports complex pool.

She will attend Dean College in Massachusetts as a pre-law student enrolled in the school’s 3+3 program that enables students to study for three years at Dean College and then enter law school. Students earn their bachelor’s degree after completing their first year of law school. Arviso earned a softball scholarship so she also will be part of the school’s athletic program.

Another aspect of the certification process is the classroom portion which includes studying a more than 500-page lifeguard manual, completing 10 online tests with a score of 90% or better, plus first aid and CPR training. The online tests include approximately 800 questions.

Cisneros said that after students set up an online profile on, the entire curriculum is laid out in detail. The initial manual review and online test completion is assigned to each person to do in their own time within two weeks, including watching videos of the in-water skills.

“After that, we meet in the classroom and demonstrate first aid, CPR and back boarding. The students then take the online first aid and CPR tests, and we schedule an eight-hour pool skills day. It usually takes all day,” Cisneros said.

Upon successful completion of the 60 in-pool skills, students return to the classroom and take a 60-question written final exam encompassing all aspects of the written and hands-on curriculum. Currently, all new lifeguards are only working at the Soboba sports complex pool, but the certification is internationally recognized and can be used anywhere a lifeguard is needed.