What began as a suggestion from one of our community partners at the Hays CISD CTE Advisory Committee meeting in October of 2016 has become a
program that is life-changing for our present and future students.
As a result of our Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program partnership with the Kyle Fire Department (KFD), we chose to hold our Fall 2016 Advisory Committee meeting in the KFD training room. KFD Fire Chief Kyle Taylor was in attendance along with numerous business and industry leaders from our community. When the discussion turned to what new programs committee members thought would be beneficial to our community, Chief Taylor spoke up and said that he would like to see us begin a Fire Academy. He knew many departments in the area, including his own, were having a difficult time filling open positions and believed that a Fire Academy would be beneficial to the department, our community, and our students. Chief Taylor offered to join with us to research existing Fire Academy programs and to work together in developing the Hays CISD Fire Academy.
A few weeks later, Chief Taylor and I, along with Capt. Freddy Rolon, the KFD Training Officer, visited LBJ High School in Austin, TX to observe the long-standing program they run in conjunction with the Austin Fire Department. Through that visit and conversations with other districts, Chief Taylor and Captain Rolon worked together to develop a list of equipment and materials that would need to be purchased in order to begin offering the program for our students. Hays CISD administration and the Board of Trustees approved the addition of the program in the early spring of 2017 and we began recruiting students to be a part of the inaugural class that fall.
After months of preparation, the program began in August of 2017 with eleven juniors, including nine from Hays High School and two from Lehman High School. Among the eleven students enrolled in the class were three female students from Hays High School. The Fire Academy meets for two class periods a day at Hays High School with additional training opportunities taking place at Kyle Fire Department and other training facilities throughout the greater Austin area. During their first year, cadets have completed CPR/AED certification, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, four Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training modules, Traffic Incident Management System (TIMS), and Wild Land Firefighter training. In their second year, Fire Academy students will finish their Fire Fighter certifications in the Fall semester and will complete EMT certification in the Spring semester.
As our first cohort of students has moved through the program, our district’s relationship with the Kyle Fire Department has grown closer as we work together toward a common goal. In early 2017, the first of our EMT program graduates was hired at KFD and Captain Rolon has stated that there are students in our Fire Academy that he would hire today if he could. The Hays CISD Fire Academy program provides Chief Taylor, Captain Rolon, and their staff an opportunity to evaluate the skills of our students on a daily basis, essentially providing the students with a two-year long working interview. Soon, because a community partner spoke up and we listened, a young firefighter will be working alongside their brethren and serving our community.