College, Sabine High School fire up career opportunities

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Sabine High School and the Kilgore College Fire Academy are teaming up to streamline the educational path for students who want to pursue a career in the fire service.

Mike Simmons, director of the academy, said a new joint training program is intended for Sabine students who wish to obtain certification from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection to pursue a career in firefighting or emergency services.

“They can do all of their coursework and bookwork in the school year then come to the fire academy in June for an 11-day physical course,” Simmons said. Upon completion of the course, graduating seniors would be well-prepared for enrollment in the KC Fire Academy.

The new program will include the opportunity for SHS students to enroll in dual-credit classes, saving them money and time in their academic career.

“The cool thing is that they can get their education in dual-credit classes. They can take their government or English classes for dual credit then take 15 hours of core classes, then come to the fire academy and get 23 hours credit towards an associate’s fire protection degree,” Simmons said.

Sabine High principal Monty Pepper said a long-standing relationship with KC and a desire to give students more career options motivated the partnership.

“The program is new to our high school and we met with Mike Simmons last spring to discuss the details,” Pepper wrote in an email. “We are always striving to provide new programs to allow greater opportunities for our students. We did some research to see if there were enough students interested. We know that many of our students utilize Kilgore College when getting their college start. We already have a great relationship with KC. This program is designed to help our students, interested in firefighting as a possible career, get started. Our local fire department is a great resource and are potential beneficiaries of the program. Anyone interested in the program can contact either Kilgore College or Sabine High School.”

Simmons explained many students who apply to the program have decided on a career in the fire service but the coursework will help them better understand their future job.

“These are students that are interested in fire service,” he said. “A lot of folks don’t know about fire service as a career. This class gives them a taste of the fire service. They will learn about the history of the fire service and the chain of command.”

Students who complete an associate’s degree of applied science in fire protection may then choose to pursue a four-year degree in a related field, such as emergency management.

The new program came about when Simmons and Sabine ISD faculty saw an opportunity for a new partnership which could give opportunities to students.

“This year is the first time it’s been offered,” Simmons said, explaining the KC Fire Academy took notice when other Texas high schools began teaming up with fire academies to launch similar programs.

Simmons and others at the academy began doing outreach to drum up interest in the program.

“We started last year with high school career days. Sabine was the first school district that wanted to do it and they made it happen fairly quickly,” Simmons said, explaining other area districts have expressed interest.

“I’m pretty confident the program will be successful,” Simmons said.

On Tuesday, six SHS students were hard at work learning the basics of firefighting careers from Simmons in a classroom at the high school.

Simmons broke down the most important components of a firefighter’s job, including health and physical fitness, continuing education, coping with stress and the importance of a clean fire house.

“You’re in training right now. We’re going to be climbing ladders, we’re going to be pulling fire hose, you’re going to be fighting fires,” Simmons told the students, reminding them of the need for caution and attention to detail to prevent injuries during training.

Students cited a desire to give back to their communities and an interest in emergency response careers as a reason for enrolling in the course.

“I’m looking at being an EMT,” said senior Kali Bynog. “I’m thinking of branching off into this career or becoming a paramedic if being an EMT isn’t for me. I feel like this gives you a purpose, a meaning.”

“I wanted to do something with my life, not just sit behind a desk,” said senior Daniel Wood on why he enrolled. When asked how he felt about the class so fair, Wood replied “I love it.”

School districts interested in creating a similar program with the KC Fire Academy are encouraged to contact Mike Simmons at 903-988-3752 or by email at misimmons@kilgore.edu.

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