Arlington ISD Fire Academy a Win-win for Students, Community

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    NEWSLETTERS

    They've run into burning buildings, extinguished fires, and rescued victims - all while in high school.

    Arlington is home to the only fire academy in North Texas specifically designed for high school students and the Arlington Fire Department says the entire community is benefiting from it.

    From the time he was five-years-old, Arlington High School student Nethaneel Bibbs knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

    "A firefighter is what I've always wanted to be," said Bibbs, who is a rising senior. "And this program has opened my eyes even more."

    He's part of the third ever class to come through the AISD Fire Academy, a two year program that teaches high school students the ins and outs of being a firefighter/EMT.

    "We get our hands on the tools, do extrications from vehicles, swift water training," said Valery Lofton, a Lamar High School senior who just graduated from the program.

    Students have to meet certain GPA requirements and apply to the program in order to participate in it. They spend most of the year in the classroom, but this week, they get to put what they've learned to the test at the Arlington Fire Department's training facility.

    "It's fun," said Bibbs. "We get to climb ladders, cut roofs, climb through walls, put out fires."

    Once the students graduate, they're eligible to take their state certification tests. As long as they pass those, they can be hired as firefighters/EMTs right out of high school.

    The Arlington Fire Department said it's a win-win situation. The students get to go through a program that typically costs $4,000 to $5,000 at no cost to them - and the fire department gets a strong pool of possible recruits.

    "The last class was the first class that was eligible to take the test and we hired four of them," said Lt. Lee Tovar, spokesperson for the Arlington Fire Department. "It's a great opportunity for them and for us because we see what we're getting. We trained these guys."

    Bibbs says he can't wait to follow in their footsteps.

    "It's a blessing for me to be able to live my dream," said Bibbs.

    The Arlington Fire Department said it's working with agencies in other cities here in the DFW area to launch similar programs.