First responder recruiters are challenged each year when trying to find eligible candidates to hire.
City officials quickly realized a need to implement a course to help set young adolescents who are considering a career in first responding on the right path.
Thus, the Public Safety Academy (PSA) program was born.
“I’m very impressed with the partnership that the City of Anaheim through their public safety has established with the school district to a fund a project like this,” Anaheim City Councilman Stephen Faessel of District 5 said.
The PSA program was created to target junior high school students and is a yearlong commitment that gives participants a taste of policing and firefighting.
“Physical fitness is one aspect of the class but we do a lot of different things inside of the classroom as well,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Michael Byard said.
Yet, the courses begin and end in middle school.
“We have quite a few students over at Anaheim High School that went through this program but unfortunately they don’t have any classes geared around public safety over there,” PSA Coordinator Rebecca Martinez said.
But that’s all about to change.
Starting in fall 2019, ninth and 10th graders at Anaheim High School (the school Sycamore Junior High School feeds into) will have the option to participate in a physical education class run though the PSA program. The students couldn’t be more excited.
“At the beginning I had a few students who signed up for the class when the fitness piece wasn’t a part of it so they didn’t expect that to be a part of the class,” PSA Instructor Brian Carlson said. “They were a little reluctant at the beginning but at this point I see even the kids who are the most reluctant come racing out here, looking forward to it, they were ready to go and they want it to be a part of it.”
PSA students participated in another Fitness Friday workout with Anaheim Fire & Rescue firefighters on April 5 at Sycamore Junior High School.
This time they were observed and joined by some special guests, including Faessel, Byard, Martinez, Anaheim Fire & Rescue Acting Chief Pat Russell, Anaheim Fire & Rescue Captain Bryan Morris, Firefighter Paramedic Jeff Low, Engineer Paramedic Nolan Karns, Probationary Firefighter Brenden Kalfus, and Cadet Vanessa Singh.
“We are here to support the public safety pathways,” Byard said. “This is an awesome opportunity for Anaheim Fire & Rescue to encourage some of the younger generation coming up and expose them to what the fire department is and also how the police departments are involved the community.”
During this week’s workout, firefighters taught the students how to exercise with things you can find around the house; for example, doing kettle bell swings with water jugs.
In addition to the water jugs, the firefighters also brought back the hose drag.
“The kids did great, phenomenal actually, for having to drag a hose for four minutes straight,” Morris said.
Physically, the students have come a long way from when they started in September 2018.
“I’ve been really excited about the progress they’ve been making, especially with fitness Fridays.” Carlson said. “My goal with them was to work on not only getting them physically fit, but more importantly learning the little things like the skills of being somewhere on time, running from one place to the next, and lining up in straight lines,” Carlson said.
“The students are doing great, they love it and we are so thrilled that the fire department has come onboard,” Martinez said. “Chief Russell made it a priority to get more fire embedded into the Public Safety Academy and they have definitely done that.”
In addition to the students making improvements, the class offers students an added benefit.
“When these public safety pathway kids are involved with the program they receive a certificate when they complete it,” Byard said. “We take that into consideration when we offer them an opportunity to be a part of our Explorer post, and it gives them a leg up on the other students who are applying because they’ve already been through this program.”
Ultimately, officials are hoping for positive results from the program.
“It’s very, very positive and hopefully in a few years we’ll have some of these students here today wearing an Anaheim uniform, whether that be police or fire, and protecting the city in which they were raised,” Faessel said.