NEW MARKET — Career paths are being forged at Southmont High School.
One path offered allows interested students the chance to become fully certified as a firefighter, an emergency medical responder and an emergency medical technician before graduation.
“Students who take the program as a junior and senior could walk out with Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications — EMR and EMT,” Career and Technical Education Coordinator Sara Nicodemus said. “The Crawfordsville Fire Department has been integral in preparing this program and shaping it to what a career firefighter needs. Because of that, they’ve began hiring at age 18.”
Acting a sort of “pipeline” for CFD and other fire and emergency medical services (EMS) departments, the vocational program is offered to Southmont, Western Boone, Crawfordsville and North Montgomery students. Graduates of the program are often hired immediately after leaving high school.
“Our fire program (participants) will go and train with the fire department, and the EMS students actually do ambulance ride-alongs,” Nicodemus said. “So they’re not just using the classroom and the lab, they’re incorporating the outside.
The course emphasizes real-world experience, she said. Instructors, for example, are often current or former firefighters, themselves.
“The instructors do an awesome job working with students, making sure they have that real-life-situation preparedness,” Nicodemus said.
Morning EMS Instructor Brian Shaw, firefighter and paramedic with CFD, brings such experience to the program’s participants.
“I like to make them think outside the box,” he said. “Here’s a patient, here’s a truck — how are you going to do this? We may go on three chest pain runs and none of them are the same.
“Everything is different every day.”
The program utilizes a classroom setting with an adjacent bay which allows students to interact with real equipment. Firefighter uniforms and hats, medical supplies and even a former ambulance await those interested in becoming a firefighter or paramedic.
“They’ve done a very nice job giving us this facility,” Shaw said. “The ambulance is more of a prop for us to utilize. What I like to do is come up with some scenario in the school somewhere so that the EMS students can take the cot out and assess the patient as if they’re actually going on a run.”
Another possibility of the program is that students may decide they do not want to pursue a career in firefighting or emergency medical services.
“(Students) sometimes say ‘I want to do this for my job,’ but sometimes they get through it and they realize ‘oh no, I don’t,’” she said. “That’s just as valuable — finding out what you want to do. So going through this program, they have a safe place to decide what their future is.”
For more information about the firefighter and emergency medical services vocational program at Southmont, contact the CTE Center at 765-362-2340.