EDMONTON- Their instructors said they started out as teens, and walked away as young men. Standing before their family and friends, 17 cadets received their certificates from Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block on Wednesday, signifying the end of a year-and-a-half long journey, as the first ever cadet class for Edmonton Fire Rescue.
It was a special day for the students, and for Edmonton Fire Rescue.
“We are very proud of this program,” Fire Chief Ken Block told Global News at the ceremony.
The fire chief then touted the core values of his department: service to the public, safety, relationships and teamwork.
“There’s so many things that a high school student can take away from those core values,” Block said.
Cadet Class #1 started in September 2014, but the programs coordinator has been a part of the idea much longer. A cadet in Calgary in his teens, Justin Turner was hired on to Edmonton Fire Rescue when he was 21.
“The program gave me life lessons. It made me mature well beyond my age,” Turner said. “It set me in the right direction to become a firefighter.”
When Turner started working with EFR, he noticed the program wasn’t offered in Edmonton and set on a mission to change that. The graduation ceremony was a culmination of his hard work.
“I’m overwhelmed with a bunch of emotions… happiness, excited for them. I’m also sad they’re leaving and we won’t get to see them every week,” Turner said. “It’s hard for me. I’ve been growing up with them over the last year-and-a-half.”
Among the graduates was 19-year-old Matthew Durda, a former Austin O’Brien Catholic High School student.
“I think the biggest part of this program that I’ve learned is commitment,” Durda said. “Commit to what you are doing and give it your best.”
The program is a big commitment. Over 18 months, the cadets meet once a week to learn about teamwork, life skills, physical fitness and some of the basics of the job. The class spent time at Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ Training Tower, which allowed them to see first hand how a fire behaves, learn about vehicle extrication, repel down a building and learn the ins and outs of rescue operations.
On top of that, students were required to complete a minimum of 45 volunteer hours in various capacities around the city. In total, the class donated more than 1400 hours of their time. One student alone volunteered 245 hours in 18 months.
“If you love what you do, you make time for it,” said 17-year-old Cadet Carter Duzsik, as he described his fellow classmates as his best friends. “We worked as a team. We win and we lose as a team.”
Along with the team of cadets, a team of firefighters also volunteered their time to provide the knowledge needed to give the teens a better understanding of what the career entails.
“Beforehand, we looked at the firefighters and the fire department as these people of legend, like heroes that you see without capes,” Duzsik said. “When we got more involved we could see they were just like us.”
Duzsik said after this experience, he could see that even though the job is difficult, it is attainable.
The program is an introduction to the career, but instructors, like program coordinator Justin Turner, know not all of the graduates will go on to become firefighters for Edmonton.
Turner said that no matter what his students choose to do, he hopes the program will help them to be leaders.
A second class started in 2015. The program will start accepting new applicants for its third class in April. To apply you must be between 14 and1 8 years of age at the start of the program and be enrolled in high school in Edmonton, or surrounding areas.
Go online for more information about the program.
© 2016 Shaw Media