A new program at Gallatin High Schools aims to better prepare students for a career as a firefighter once they graduate.

The school, in partnership with the Gallatin Fire Department (GFD) and Volunteer State Community College, launched a dual enrollment fire emergency services program this semester.

“It’s difficult now for us to find candidates coming in that have the necessary certifications to go right to work,” said Scott Woodward, chief of training for the GFD and instructor of the class. “Our goal is a two-year program to have students ready to attack a career in the fire service or emergency services. This creates a pipeline hopefully for that.”

The course, which has 18 students enrolled currently, is geared towards incoming juniors and will include four different classes during a two-year period. The class meets five days a week at the school, which is split between the standard college curriculum work that is supplemented by hands-on learning and discussion with members from the local fire department.

In addition to getting an introduction to fire and emergency services, students in the course have already gotten their basic life support (BLS) certification while also learning about airways, choking and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

“It’s a big opportunity for us to be in the class,” GHS junior Rebekah Cheesman said. “We’ve learned so much and I love it so far.”

As part of the program, students will also take part in an emergency medial responder course as well as a 64-hour basic training class that is a minimum requirement to become a firefighter, according to Woodward. The hands-on training includes hose line deployment, how to perform searches and a live burn once they are 18 years old.

When they graduate, students who complete the program will already having 12 credit hours towards an associate of applied science degree.  

“I want to be a firefighter,” GHS junior Kenley Graves said. “I had some things happen in my life that made me realize that I needed to help people because I had people that helped me in my life that went down this path and it meant a lot to me.”

Officials with the GFD first began internal discussions about starting the program last summer, according to Woodward. 

In March, approximately 70 students attended an informational meeting at the high school about the class. Of those, 18 took and passed a college placement exam through Volunteer State Community that was required in order to enroll in the course.

“We have a lot of dual enrollment classes, but nothing like this,” GHS Assistant Principal and C.T.E. Administrator Johnnie Anderson said about the course. “We want to prepare our students to be ready to go to college or go into the workforce. This is a great opportunity of them to get ready and have a career when they graduate.”

Local emergency medical services and law enforcement officials have also expressed interest in possibly taking part in their own similar courses at the school in the future, Anderson added.

As for the students currently enrolled in the school’s fire emergency services program, Woodward believes the course will still be a success regardless of the career path they choose.

“They’re going to be able to help possibly in an emergency somewhere down the road not as a fireman, but just as a citizen,” Woodward said. “So even if they don’t come to us and don’t go into emergency services, we’re still making better humans.”

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