ABILENE, Texas (AP) — Abilene High School sophomore Dylan Wright has long held a dream of being a firefighter.
Now that his school is taking steps to get him through a firefighter training program, it might become reality.
The Abilene Reporter-News reports it’s the same story with several other Abilene Independent School District high school students lucky enough to be able to take advantage of a new career and technical education program.
“I always wanted to be in the field,” Wright said. “But the school didn’t have it, so I was going to be in law enforcement. But they started the program, so I’m taking advantage.”
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The firefighter training courses won’t officially begin until next year, when former Abilene Fire Department Lt. Mike Miller introduces the first two semesters of a planned four-semester program.
Wright and his Abilene High classmates are perfectly positioned, as they’ll be in 11th grade when the junior-level courses are brought in.
Firefighting classes at Abilene High, as well as those offered at Cooper High, are part of a conversation that started many years ago, as focus within education shifted away from college prep toward career possibilities.
Both Abilene ISD and the city met at the bargaining table looking to bring the firefighter training program into the high school. While leadership both in the fire department and the school district has changed, the conversation continued, resulting in the program finally making its debut with a basic skills class this year.
Miller retired after 22 years to take on his new role of teaching. He’s currently guiding 35 students through six class periods — three morning periods at Cooper and three afternoon classes at AHS — through his first year.
There are challenges for everyone involved, Miller said, including himself. He didn’t realize how difficult teaching could get, especially when it’s students who don’t necessarily believe firefighting is the direction they want to pursue.
One such challenge is materials. While Miller still has his connections at the Abilene Fire Department, it’s not like he can just waltz into headquarters and take the gear he needs to demonstrate a firefighter’s job.
Still, it’s what he’s done, though with permission. He recently lectured the classes on how to properly put on and take off all of the fire-retardant clothing, masks and helmets.
“We don’t have much equipment to get started,” Miller said. “We have to work with the city.”
That partnership also got Miller’s students out to the city’s training facility, where they spent a day each getting to see how certified firefighters keep their skills up to speed.
While a partnership with the city is fundamental to the success of the program, a relationship with Cisco College, where local firefighters actually train in an academy for two years after high school, also could be beneficial.
Miller and his bosses, including Ryder Appleton, AISD’s director of career and technical education, hope the firefighter classes, once offered, could springboard a dual credit program between the two.
This would help Cisco reach more students and allow Abilene’s high school students to get college credit for the classes they want to take anyway, all for free.
All of these aspects would help Miller’s program grow into a successful one, whether at Abilene High or Cooper High.
Other students, like sophomore Conner Stimmler, see it as a way of getting started in a career early.
“I thought this class would be mostly paperwork and studying,” he said. “But we’ve learned a lot, about the gear, the firetrucks and the organization of the fire department. Visiting the academy got me excited.”
Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com