Ben just finished a full year program, 1 ½ hours a day, of a fire service technology class. It was offered as a part-time elective program through the local school district, and classes were held at a nearby fire station, facilitated by active and retired firefighters. One of Ben’s friends had really enjoyed it the previous year, so he thought he’d try it out.
During the course of the program, Ben learned about basic hands-on fire service skills and a tremendous amount of fire science knowledge. He got up at 6:15a.m. every day, made his own breakfasts, never missed a class, and worked hard all year long. He dealt with the newness of regular assignments, a thick professional text with weekly readings, chapter tests, and working as part of a 5-person team within a class of 35 other students. He learned to use a variety of fire hoses, ladders, search and rescue techniques, as well as first aid, CPR, team building and communication skills. On top of all this, he got to drive a fire truck a few times. How cool is that!
At the beginning of the year, his peers voted to honor him with an achievement award, known in the fire service community as the Bulldog Award, to recognize positive individual behavior within the fire service program. Throughout the year, he worked alongside a variety of other students, developed a great relationship with the Chief and other mentors within the program, and enjoyed a sense of pride and accomplishment regarding all his hard work. By the end of the year, he had earned a comprehensive grade of 98%, was second in the class, and runner up for their student firefighter of the year award. He also earned ten college credits that can be applied to a fire science degree if he chooses to pursue that path.
It was an excellent experience, and he’s looking forward to participating again for a second year next fall. The program is available for juniors and seniors, and next year he’ll get the chance to be a company officer, leading a team in their hands-on drills and daily classwork.
I wanted to share about this adventure here because (along with finally getting a few good photos to post!) it shows one way that a young adult might venture out into the big wide world. It’s a program Ben wanted to try because it sounded fun and interesting, and now he’s carefully considering whether or not he’d like to pursue a fire service career. If he does, that’s terrific. If not, then it will still be a great experience from which to learn and grow.
Also, parents wonder about how their homeschooled or unschooled kids will fare as they grow and mature. In this case, by many other people’s standards and measurements (and ours too), Ben is doing just fine. More importantly, by his own standards, he is doing just fine. This was a kid who played with Legos, climbed trees, built things, listened to stories, read books, and played all day long for years and years. He didn’t have years of schooling, or years of formalized curriculum, before this experience. He had real life experiences. And this is a wonderful continuation of that.