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DEL CITY, Okla. (AP) — Henry Martey didn’t hesitate when a firefighter asked for a volunteer to operate the “Jaws of Life,” the hydraulic-powered tool that can slice through an automobile like a can opener does a can of soup.

“I’ve never seen this stuff before,” said Martey, who is a junior at Del City High School. “It was really cool.”

With the help of a Del City firefighter, Martey took the hulking tool in his hands and cut through the metal frame of a car, simulating the type of work emergency personnel might do at the scene of an auto accident.

“That gives you a lot of confidence,” Martey said. “It’s so powerful.”

Martey was one of 20 high school students selected for DelQuest, an intensive three-day program that includes leadership training, personality assessments and one-on-one mentoring.

Students spent one morning last week suiting up like firefighters and going through various rescue drills, including responding to a car accident and finding an unconscious person inside a burning building.

Another session involved a money management simulation that played out like an interactive version of “The Game of Life” board game.

Students also went through an exercise in learning more about their own personalities, while gaining a deeper understanding of why people different from them act the way they do.

“We are going to expose them to a lot of higher education as well as just practical hands on training,” said Chris Neisent, the facilitator for DelQuest.

Now in its 15th year, the DelQuest program is administered by the Del City Chamber of Commerce and a team of sponsors help offer the program free of charge to selected students.

High school students from Del City High School, Christian Heritage Academy, Destiny Christian School and home school are allowed to apply and an interview process whittled 64 applicants down to 20.

The goal is for students to gain a deeper understanding of how their community works and possibly come away with some career ideas, The Oklahoman reported.

“They are getting to experience different aspects of leadership but also learn about the Del City community,” said Carol Goodwin, executive director of the Del City Chamber of Commerce.

“When they grow up and become a part of the community … they will know how to be leaders in the community and they will know who the key players are in the city.”

Sara Moore, who is a junior at Christian Heritage Academy, said her favorite session was one on learning interview skills.

“Learning interview skills is going to be helpful for me when I apply for college and scholarships, and when I apply for a job,” said Moore, who wants to someday become a physician assistant.

The DelQuest program was showcased the previous week at a New Skills for Youth summit from the state Department of Education. The summit highlighted ways for schools and businesses work together to promote more high-quality career pathways, especially as Oklahoma experiences a shortage of skilled labor and a large number of high school students enter college needing to take remediation courses.

State education leaders are promoting both college and career-training opportunities and DelQuest was considered an example of building both academic and leadership strength.

DelQuest leaders also said the program centers on developing crucial teamwork skills.

“Any field that they go into, whether it’s academic or trade school, they are going to have to work on a team, they are going to have to have team-building skills, to work with people who think differently than them, act differently than them,” Neisent said. “Learning those skills are a core part of what we do at DelQuest.”

When a Del City firefighter asked for another volunteer to use a special tool for breaking a car window, Martey was again quick to raise his hand.

Martey was a bit timid as he pointed the end of the tool into the glass, but as he applied more pressure the window instantly shattered. He quickly stepped back in response to the loud “pop” sound the broken window made, but then smiled as he opened his eyes.

“There are a lot of things we are doing where you are a little nervous at first, but when you conquer those fears it gives you a lot of confidence,” Martey said. “That’s really what I’ve learned a lot this week.”


Information from: The Oklahoman,