Sycamore Jr. High students work out with Anaheim Fire & Rescue cadets

By Rebecca D'Auria

Middle schoolers drag limp fire hoses through the grass as they run across the Sycamore Jr. High field to Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Christian Aviles.

“Let’s go, you guys are doing great,” Aviles yelled.

Once the students reached Aviles they immediately got on the ground and bear crawled back to where they started before moving on to their next task.

This may not seem like the typical workout of an eighth-grade physical education class; that’s because it isn’t.

“You get an experience of what actual firefighters do in a workout, so you can be prepared if you go on and know what it will be like,” student Cristina Rodriguez said. “I think they are good workouts. I’m tired. It’s a good experience.”

These eighth-grade students were hand selected to be part of the Public Safety Academy (PSA) program after completing an exploratory program and signing up as seventh graders.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Justin Collins shows students firefighter skills, including how to make a figure-eight knot, as part of Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The program is a year-long commitment. The Anaheim Police Department teaches the first half of the program and then Anaheim Fire & Rescue takes over the second half.

“I like when our guest speakers come in,” student Brittany Roldan said. “I might want to be a detective later.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to get the eighth graders to join the fire explorer post or the police explorer post within the following year.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Christian Aviles, left, give tips to Sycamore Junior High student Raymond Rubio, 13, on the best way to cary the fire hose during a fitness class.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“PSA came about five years ago because Anaheim PD was doing some research and they were a bit worried, same with fire departments, that… young adults aren’t going to be able to be public safety employees because they’re not going to pass background checks,” said Rebecca Martinez, a coordinator and collaborator for PSA.

“This program will hopefully push them towards the right path and then they will become our cadets and then become a service officer. That’s the goal: the pipeline,” she said.

As part of the pipeline, PSA students participated in a Fitness Friday workout on Feb. 8 at Sycamore Jr. High. The workout was led by four Anaheim Fire & Rescue cadets and Sycamore Jr. High PSA Instructor Brian Carlson.

Jordan Reynoso, 13, runs through timed calisthenics during Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

During Fitness Friday, four stations were set up, each with a different workout.

Cadet Justin Collins, taught students how to tie a figure eight knot that firefighters use to rappel off of buildings or use to bring tools up to a building.

After learning knots, students jogged over to Aviles to compete in the hose drag relay.

“We’re are having them do a relay run, which is around 25 meters, and pull the hose through their legs, then do a bear crawl,” Aviles said. “This helps with back, upper body strength, and also legs.”

Natasha Salcedo, 13, runs downfield while dragging a fire hose during Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

At the relay finish line, Cadet Nicole Nelson brought the students over to the fire hose station.

Battle ropes are all about endurance, she said. After being fatigued by the other activities, students picked up the two ends of the fire hose in each hand and forcefully swung them down, then back and forth, in a whipping motion.

“What we’re doing right now, it’s more of a HIT workout more than anything. We’re just trying to show them elements of the fire service so that someday they may be interested in it,” Nelson said. HIT is high intensity training.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Justin Collins shows student Natasha Salcedo how to make a figure-eight knot as part of Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Finally, the students ended their workout with Cadet Vanessa Singh. At this station, students threw down medicine balls and did burpees.

“They’re doing that 10 times and when they’re waiting in line, they’re doing jumping jacks or air squats,” Singh said.

Carlson explained that although the program was successful in the past, he noticed a key aspect missing – physical fitness.

“Fitness plays a big part in the life of law enforcement or a firefighter, so we wanted to create an academy atmosphere and bring that physical piece of it in,” Carlson said. “When we do our Fitness Fridays, the kids really get into it, which is awesome. Everything seems to be coming together.”

Sycamore Junior High student Ulises Grado, 13, front, carries fire hose across the field trying to beat the clock as part of Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

PSA students who successfully complete the program receive a special offer from the Anaheim Police Department. Usually to be a police explorer, applicants have to be a freshman in high school and 14 years old. However, if any of the PSA students want to join, the Anaheim Police Department will accept them.

Besides helping guide students toward a career of firefighting or policing, the program has also been beneficial by getting the students outside.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadet Justin Collins shows Juan Mendoza, 13, firefighter skills that includes how to make a figure-eight knot, as part of Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“It’s a good class, I love it,” student Noe Mija said.

The students aren’t the only ones that enjoy Fitness Friday. Anaheim Fire & Rescue cadets also enjoy working out and interacting with the middle schoolers.

“It’s fun to see the students motivated out there,” Aviles said. “Just having them so young introduced into this field, it’s just amazing.”

Anaheim Fire & Rescue Cadets Nicole Nelson, Christian Aviles, Vanessa Singh, and Justin Collins, right, get ready to help Sycamore Junior High students run through firefighting drills during Fitness Friday.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Natasha Salcedo, 13, runs downfield while dragging a fire hose during Fitness Friday at Sycamore Junior High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Sycamore Junior High students gather with Anaheim Fire & Rescue cadets during Fitness Friday at the school.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge