Jump Into the Job Pool

March 18, 2024

Tyler DiFatta has “done it all.” Since 2015, he worked as a pool attendant, swim instructor, lifeguard, manager, pool cashier and currently, aquatics assistant at Palatine Park District.  “I wanted to work at the pool ever since I was a child,” DiFatta said. “I wanted to become a lifeguard, which was an all-time goal for me. DiFatta stays at the District for many reasons. “The first is the work environment,” he said.  “Working at the pools is fun and exciting. The staff are like a second family. There is a supportive atmosphere where everyone feels valued and respected,” he said. “It’s not just about the tasks we perform, it’s about the relationships we’ve built, making each day meaningful and fulfilling,” he added. “I also enjoy working outside and the flexible schedule,” he said.

 “This experience has taught me the importance of clear communication, empathy, and adaptability in guiding and supporting others,” he added. One experience DiFatta will never forget is teaching private swim lessons to a young participant. “On the last day of class, he told me he had something for me,” DiFatta explained.  “He drew a picture of me teaching him how to swim. That drawing showed me how much of an impact I can have on someone’s life, even in seemingly small ways,” he continued. “It’s moments like these that reinforce my passion for what I do and inspire me to continue sharing my love for swimming.”  DiFatta is pursuing his master’s degree in counseling.

For Denise Carlson, in her third year working with Palatine Park District Day Camps, the District has always been a part of her life. Carlson, who is completing her music education degree, said most of her childhood activities were done through the District. “My parents always turned to the Palatine Park District program guide to find activities for me,” she said. “There’s a unique sense of togetherness that comes from one organization offering such a wide variety of services to the community, and I’m lucky to have that.” Carlson’s goal is to become a teacher. “Being a future teacher, I obviously love to work with kids, and a position where I can make camp a fun experience is so rewarding and fun,” she said. “Plus, I get to spend my summers outside! I still have every drawing and craft a kid made me at camp, and it brings me so much joy to know they worked hard on something to give to me,” she added. Along with the memorable moments come some challenges. “In a high-energy environment, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at times,” Carlson admitted.  “I try to be open with my coworkers and especially with the campers, because it’s good for kids to see an adult modeling the need to take a step back to calm down,” she said.  “Above all else, I give myself constant reminders that they’re kids and are still learning how to do things like share and compromise.”

MaKenna Cotton, a Site Director for Kids Camp at Birchwood Recreation Center, is a third-grade teacher in the Palatine School District. “I love working with kids and families,” she said. “As a teacher, I wanted to continue working with kids over the summer, but I wanted to experience their joyfulness outside of the classroom. What better way to do so than spending the day with them outside in the sun playing games, swimming in the pool, and exploring their creativity through arts and crafts,” she said. “It’s the encouragement, teamwork, and effective communication that draws me back each summer,” she added. “This job has taught me a lot about responsibility.  I have also learned a lot about children’s behavior. It has taught me how to be more patient and how I can best support each child,” she said. According to Cotton, she has utilized her summer camp experience in the classroom too. “It has taught me that my students are more than just students who attend school every day. They are kids who love to make up imaginary games and be silly with their friends; they are kids who love to draw and tell stories of what they did the night before. This job allows me to understand how kids learn and grow outside of the classroom and how I can use that to make learning more fun inside the classroom,” she said. “Palatine Park District creates a fun, safe, and welcoming environment for me and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else this summer!”

Gina Dellamaria graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2021. She has worked in aquatics for Palatine Park District for almost 12 years. “I worked as a pool attendant for six summers,” she said. “I then became an assistant manager and cashier for the last five summers and recently got certified as a lifeguard,” she added.  Dellamaria was looking for her first job when she was hired at the District. “My sister was working as a lifeguard and always had something positive to say, like how it was a great first job and the people who worked there were great,” she said. She said what draws her back is the people. “I have met and known many great people over the years,” she said. The skills I have learned from working at the pool include being part of a team and being a leader. Since becoming an employee with the Park District, I have grown,” she said. “The park district is a great place to get a job and get experience in the job process,” she added.

Kids Camp Counselor Chloe Lee is currently attending college. According to Lee, she enjoys being around kids and has a passion to teach. “When camp ended last summer, I knew I wanted to return for the next season,” she said. “It was such a great environment to be in; all my co-counselors were truly so amazing to work with and the kids were so energetic and kind,” she added. Lee said working at summer camp has taught her skills to use outside the job as well. “As a college student it can be difficult managing time between classes, assignments, clubs, and friends” she said. Lee said being a counselor has taught her time management, patience, and classroom management. “With children, it is so important to be patient since they may not quite understand or have the attention span,” she said.  “It has helped me tremendously on what to expect for my future classroom. I believe that the whole experience at Kids Camp significantly contributed to my personal growth and solidified my aspirations to be a teacher.”

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