Edison magnet training ground for future firefighters
By SAISD Communications
June 5, 2014
Leslie Galvan spent the past year supervising 15 firefighters-in-training while keeping up with the academic and physical challenges of San Antonio College’s First Responders Academy, a firefighter training program.
It’s a feat for most adults – Galvan accomplished it as a high school student through the fire science pathway of the Edison High School Public Safety Magnet. When the 17-year-old Galvan, selected as the group’s captain and leader, and her classmates graduate from Edison June 6, they will do so with one foot firmly planted in the future, thanks to their tenacity and dedication.
“This was like homework every day and studying every single day,” Galvan said of the First Responders Academy, which she juggled with her high school classes. “I surprised myself by being able to keep up with it. There were a lot of sleepless nights, but still, I’m just glad of the outcome.”
Completing the fire science program, which includes going through SAC’s training academy, put her and her 15 classmates well on their way to meeting the requirements for the state certification that will allow them to become firefighters.
“What I see in these students is that they learned not only firefighting skills, but they also learned life skills – responsibility, respect, commitment, team work and courage,” said Dr. Anthony Rogers, the retired 27-year firefighting veteran who oversees the magnet’s fire science pathway. “They became in tune with their abilities and that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to, if they’re willing to work hard and make a commitment.”
Challenging, but life-changing
SAC’s First Responders Academy accepted high school students for the first time this year, with Galvan and her classmates in the inaugural class.
That means they were dual high school and college students and as such earned 24 college-credit hours. Students who went through the First Responders Academy say there was a point early on where the challenges seemed overwhelming. Students attended the academy six days a week, including a 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule on Saturdays.
“At first, I think all of us had that one point where we were like ‘I don’t know’ because of all of the stress,” recalled Kevin Callejas, a ranked lieutenant in the program, “but after a point, you get used to it. There are a lot of parts (where) the stuff that you do just motivates you to keep going, plus you build a family throughout the whole thing. You all push each other through it.”
Both Galvan and Callejas plan to continue working on the remainder of their firefighting requirements, with Emergency Medical Technician preparation courses planned in the fall at SAC. After Galvan finishes at SAC, she plans to transfer to Texas A&M-San Antonio to study fire science, and Callejas said he will go on to pursue his certification in hazardous materials.
For Israel Tovar, the fire science program will serve as a career boost when he heads off to the Marines later this summer. He has been accepted to the U.S. Marine Corps fire academy and said he has been informed he likely will enter the military at a higher rank thanks to his training.
“It’s done a lot (for me),” he said about the program. “It matured me more. It disciplined me.”
In the case of Steven Ruiz, the program helped him find his way. Prior to starting at the First Responders Academy, Steven had not envisioned firefighting as a future. He plans to dive right into action this summer with a course to prepare him for a swiftwater rescue certification. Then he’ll take courses to prepare for EMT and hazardous materials certifications, all with the help of the Jarret Fire Department, where he currently is a volunteer firefighter.
“It definitely has changed me,” he said about the academy and magnet program. “It was a confidence boost for my future. I was kind of unsure on what to do for my future.”
Firefighters in training
The Edison High School Public Safety Magnet provides students two career pathways: law enforcement and fire science.
The fire science pathway allows students to earn, free of cost to them and their families, up to 26 hours of college credit at San Antonio College, through the First Responder Academy. The academy teaches students basic firefighting skills, from handling ropes and knots to full-on fire suppression and vehicle extrication – the skills they will need to be able to successfully complete the basic fire suppression certification process, which includes an evaluation of skills and a written exam.
In addition to the college credit, students who complete the fire science program and go through SAC’s academy should graduate with a certification for the National Incident Management System Certification, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
With recruiting policies varying by fire department, Dr. Rogers, the Edison fire science instructor, said some departments may hire the students with the training they now have and could assist them with completing the remaining EMT certification they will need before they can earn their basic fire suppression certification.
Still a young program, the fire science program is evolving, with some changes planned for next school year. Both juniors and seniors, instead of just seniors, will spend their mornings training at the academy and will take core subject courses at Edison in the afternoon. Saturday school will not be required.
The fire science program begins in the 9th grade, with freshmen taking a Theory of Fire Science course. In the 10th grade, students take courses focused on the court system, hazardous materials and forensics. In the 11th and 12th grades, students take firefighter I and firefighter II courses, respectively, at the academy.
Watching his students blossom into young adults well-prepared for their future careers has been bittersweet for Dr. Rogers.
“I was very teary-eyed this weekend because I grew very close to them and worked with them on a regular basis, and we became family,” he said. “I am excited for their future, but I will miss them dearly.”
Enrolling in the Public Safety Magnet
Students who reside in the greater Bexar County area who are interested in careers in fire science or law enforcement are eligible to apply for a spot at Edison’s Public Safety Magnet.
- Applications for the 2015-16 school year will be accepted Oct. 1-Dec. 12, 2014.
- Applications can be picked up at Edison High School or printed in either English or Spanish and submitted by the deadline either in person or by mail to the Charter, Magnet & Summer School Department, located in Room 31 in the Burnet Center, 406 Barrera St., San Antonio, TX 78210.
- For more information, contact Edison High School at (210) 733-9147 and ask to speak with the magnet coordinator or call the Charter, Magnet & Summer School Department at (210) 554-2660.