Hays CISD graduates first Fire Academy class in Kyle

Growing up, Lehman High senior Cameron Saucedo had an inkling of what career path he’d eventually seek.

After watching his father serve with the Kyle Fire Department (KFD) for many years, Saucedo naturally envisioned following his footsteps into the public service sector.

Through Hays CISD’s two-year Fire Academy course, Saucedo and a handful of others are on the precipice of turning that dream into reality. On June 5, Hays CISD and KFD celebrated the graduation of Class Alpha, the program’s inaugural group of students in the program, which provides students training and instruction necessary for a career in emergency services.

For Saucedo, a member of Class Alpha who recently passed his state level firefighter’s exam, their example could set the bar for future students to realize the open doors of opportunity.

“For other kids, we’re going to set the example for them,” Saucedo said. “If they know kids are doing well and passing and possibly starting a career with it (the program), they’ll know it’s a gateway to a career and that they’re not just selling dreams. It’s reality.”

The Fire Academy, which began at the start of the 2017 school year, is a combined effort through Hays CISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) and KFD. Students who take part learn all aspects of emergency services.

That includes instruction on fire behavior, extrication, equipment needed in the job, Hazardous Materials and much more. Students also gain insight into first aid and how to deal with and treat trauma. Knowledge learned in the course helps students who want to take the state level firefighter or EMT exams, which are necessary to work in the profession.

KFD Lt. Mark McClendon, who also served as an instructor in the academy, said that while students were initially timid when they began learning the ins-and-outs of the job, McClendon said they started to flourish as they gained a foothold on instruction. Assisting that endeavor was hands-on training that allowed students to translate what they learned in the books to real-life situations.

“I had a blast teaching them and it was a lot of fun,” McClendon said.

But for Kyle Taylor, Kyle Fire Department chief, what’s taught in the books isn’t as important as the soft skills students obtain.

Traits such as professionalism, determination, teamwork and communication are all fostered through the program. All aspects are traits firefighters and those in emergency services use on a daily basis. Hays High senior Dallin Roberts said he learned not only the need to persevere under pressure while in the course, but to also trust and work with his fellow students to get the job done.

Hays High senior Zoe Briceno said what she learned in the program went far beyond what she could have obtained in the normal classroom setting. It also was a way for Briceno and the three other girls in Class Alpha to prove they could do the job, too.

“I learned so much about leadership, discipline, about being dedicated to the community,” Briceno said. “If I could redo this all over again, I would.”

That instruction is something McClendon said would have been useful during his time at Hays High. While in high school, McClendon served as a volunteer firefighter and had to obtain instruction on his own time.

Eric Wright, Hays CISD superintendent, said the academy is a grand opportunity for the district and outside entities to partner in order to provide opportunities for students. Wright said the district is trying to get students at a younger age to focus on their career paths in order to provide them the skills necessary once they enter the workforce.

“We’re excited they will be able to serve us in the community and they will truly make a difference,” Wright said.

Freddy Rolon, Kyle Fire training captain and leader of the academy, lauded the efforts of the graduates and urged them to take advantage of the opportunities.

“Opportunities are out there, you just need to chase it and you need to take it,” Rolon said. “I have 100 percent trust in you that you can make it.”

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