PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The first outdoor pool of the season is officially open in Philadelphia.
The heated outdoor pool at the Samuel Recreation Center is now actively training lifeguards.
The city is on a major campaign to fill hundreds of open spots, and on Wednesday, they sweetened the deal with a pay increase.
"The good news is that our starting salary has been raised. It was $15.25 to $17.24 an hour, and it is now $16 to $18. So we are going to change that," said Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.
Philly Parks & Recreation aims to hire about 800 lifeguards so they can open all 68 outdoor pools this summer.
RELATED: City of Philadelphia on aggressive hiring spree to staff pools amid national lifeguard shortage
Officials say this will keep kids off the streets and teach life-saving skills.
"African Americans are three times more likely to die by drowning than white Americans. So for me, opening our pool safety is the summary as a matter of equity. It is a matter of access, and it could be a matter of life and death," said Thelma Nesbitt, water safety instructor.
The lifeguard certification is free for applicants ages 16-24 who commit to working at a city pool.
Last summer, Philadelphia was only able to open 42 or about 60% of pools due to staffing shortages.