HAYS COUNTY, Texas — It started with a conversation three years ago. Hays CISD met with the Kyle Fire Department and discussed what kinds of professionals were needed in the community. The consensus? More firefighters and emergency medical technicians. And so the district's Firefighter Academy was birthed.
This isn't a school field trip. It is actually the fifth period for some Hays and Lehman High School students. These juniors and seniors are part of the firefighter academy – a partnership between Hays CISD and the Kyle Fire Department.
Freddy Rolon is the training captain for this two-year program.
"So these cadets are in a two-year interview with us. We can see what they are capable of and we can see how smart they can be and how we can develop them," Rolon explained.
The course offers both traditional and hands-on learning, from dressing up in safety gear in 60 seconds to more intense search and rescue drills.
This academy is run like any other fire academy in the state.
"They have the tools on the table if they want to use it. I'm providing everything according to the Texas Commission of Fire Protection curriculum," Rolon said. "The curriculum is key as is maturity."
Rolon understands that growth and development take time, but when it clicks, it clicks.
"I knew the bar was going to be high and we lived up to that," said Cameron Saucedo.
He is one of the first cadets to complete this firefighter academy. Upon graduating high school last May, the City of Kyle hired him as a full-time firefighter. Saucedo's father was thrilled.
"He was really happy and proud that I was kind of following in his footsteps," added Cameron.
Big boots to fill. Back in the day, Saucedo's dad served as a Kyle volunteer firefighter.
"I thought it was really cool and him being a volunteer they got to take home their gear," Saucedo said. "I would sneak into the garage and put it on."
Fast forward all these years and Saucedo is employed at 18 years old, making $43,000 a year and has the option to retire with full benefits by age 38.
And that's the hope for all these cadets in training – to find professions straight out of high school.
"I see the growth. Cameron, from that little kid now to the man that he is today. Working for us, from our community, he grew up here and now he's serving his community. I mean how great is that," said Rolon.
In the last semester, students have the opportunity to become EMT certified. Also, the Kyle Fire Department will actually pay for their young men and women to go to college if they'd wish to go.
Kyle firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. So, many cadets go to college or have second jobs on their days off.
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