Zoombezi Bay at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Powell, Ohio - USA
Featured in "World Waterpark Magazine," September 2017
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE?
I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in communication. During the four years I was in college, I switched my major seven times! My passion for waterparks began at Wyandot Lake in 2004. Two years later, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium bought the former Six Flags property and opened Zoombezi Bay.
WHAT CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING DO YOU HAVE?
I am a certified Ellis & Associates ILTP Instructor Trainer and a Certified Pool Operator.
WHAT HONORS, AWARDS OR SPECIAL RECOGNITION HAVE YOU ACHIEVED?
While I was in school, I had the honor of receiving the Ohio’s Governor’s Award in Art, specifically ceramics. I am also an accomplished dancer and have received the World Champion award in Orlando, Fla., for categories in tap, jazz and lyrical. Within the industry, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a partial Chris Stuart Emerging Leaders scholarship to attend the WWA Show.
WHAT MADE YOU GO INTO THIS FIELD?
Well, it wasn’t what, it was who! My sister, Kristen Keighley, was the Aquatics Supervisor at Wyandot Lake my first year there. Once I joined the team, I was hooked.
WHAT ASPECT OF THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY DO YOU LIKE BEST?
I love the creative aspect of seeing what goes into the mindset and building of new attractions. Being able to start with just a piece of land and letting your ideas run wild is my dream.
WHO HAS MOST INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
First and foremost, my family, as each one of them has their own strengths and talents but they are the hardest working people I know. Within the industry, Nick Licastro is one of my biggest inspirations. He was one of my first instructor trainers in 2009, and to this day I still aspire to be as good of an instructor, motivator and leader as he is on a daily basis. I also could not praise enough the team I have within my own park: John Gannon, Andy Cloyd and Chuck Cattrell who have been my support since the beginning.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IN YOUR WATERPARK CAREER?
Weather! Mother Nature and I are not the best of friends. Living in Ohio, we have a traditional summer season. Each season sets new challenges that we have to overcome as a team, but it is great to see how we come together throughout the season to solve problems.
HOW DO YOU KEEP FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?
It is important for me to give 100 percent in whatever I commit to and I push myself to continue to do my best keeping safety and training as my top priority.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN WORKING IN THE WATERPARK INDUSTRY?
I always tell my first-year lifeguards, no one is born to be a lifeguard, everyone goes through training!
WHAT BOOKS OR PUBLICATIONS DO YOU RELY ON MOST FOR INSPIRATION OR MOTIVATION?
Recently, I have my leadership team hooked on Simon Sinek’s: “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
My favorite part of my job is not only having a waterpark as my office, but it is also attached to a zoo. In one day, I can ride a waterslide, eat fried Oreo’s, feed a giraffe and hold a baby snow leopard. Who can complain with a work day like that?
WHAT CAREER OR BUSINESS WOULD YOU CONSIDER IF YOU WERE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN?
I had the opportunity of working with Dale Chihuly, the glass sculptor, when I was younger. He invited me to study under him my first year in college in Washington, but I was unsure about moving across the country.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE WWA?
It all started when I used to sneak into my boss’ office and “borrow” the new issues of the WWA magazine to read them. My fascination grew learning what’s new in the industry and reading the articles. I am ecstatic to now be in one of the articles that I always used to read in my office.
WHAT IS SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOU THAT FEW KNOW OR WOULD GUESS?
I used to do Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo before I fractured my back. Matt Brown, now the famous UFC fighter, used to train at our facility. I tried to grapple with him once, but I lost.