Teacher Heather Johnson, right, is partnering with the Sisters fire district to enhance health-related career education at Sisters High School. photo by John Griffith
By John Griffith
With a slim but stable budget for the 2013-2014 school year, Sisters High School has been able to add back Heather Johnson's popular health program full-time. With a donation of instructor time and materials through the Sisters-Camp Sherman fire district, the offerings are more extensive than ever.
Starting with a basic health class in their freshman year, students will be able to map out a curriculum that culminates in their senior year with the opportunity to earn dual credit and certification in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Fire Safety (fireman) or wildland firefighting. The certifications will be administered by Central Oregon Community College (COCC).
Students can take the coursework at any time, but for insurance reasons they must be 18 years old before the legal certification can be issued. The certifications are recognized by other fire districts as well as local and federal agencies, so the student can use them to apply for full-time or summer work anywhere in the country.
Even if the certificate holder is not interested in a full-time position in fire science or EMT work, Fire Chief Roger Johnson noted that many certificate holders pick up well-paying summer season jobs fighting fires to help pay their way through college.
Chief Johnson noted two other significant and often overlooked opportunities:
"One of our focuses of our program is to expose kids to all of the careers in the emergency services industry. The opportunities go beyond just being a fireman; there are fire prevention people that specialize in public education, we have arson investigators, we have technical rescue people, we have hazardous materials technicians, we have smoke jumpers, we have wildland firefighters, we have 911 dispatchers, we have Life Flight paramedics, and the list just goes on and on."
The second often-overlooked area is the scholarships offered through the Central Oregon fire districts and COCC. The Sisters fire district has six of the roughly 30 scholarships offered throughout Central Oregon. The scholarships are for two years (a third-year option is available). Scholarship recipients receive paid tuition and books and a small stipend for gas. In addition, housing is provided at the fire station.
Last year there were 27 scholarships granted in Central Oregon, 14 of those scholarship winners selected Sisters as their first choice for posting. Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District (SCSRFPD) picked six from that group. Surprisingly, over the last 10 years there have only been two or three kids from Sisters in the program. The program that will be offered to Sisters High School (SHS) seniors this fall provides specific coaching to improve a student's chances of winning one of those six scholarships.
Chief Johnson and volunteer Captain Dave Wellington are heading up the volunteer teaching effort at SHS.
Wellington will be teaching the SHS course three to five days a week, supported by a number of guest lecturers that have volunteered to support the effort.
Chief Johnson said, "The year-long program will provide classroom and hands-on training for students interested in a possible career in the emergency services industry. Instructors (will come from) the Sisters-Camp Sherman fire district, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District (and) will provide the training at no charge to the (school) district. Guest instructors will include smoke jumpers, air ambulance paramedics, arson investigators, and specialty rescue teams."
SCSRFPD will provide the coordination for the instructors and the hands-on training, including some weekends. SCSRFPD is also providing all required materials including a $75 textbook.
Captain Wellington identified the four main goals for the program: "One, we want to provide an opportunity for students to learn about the various careers available within the fire service. Two, we want to provide students with the necessary skills and certifications to apply for seasonal employment with the wild land firefighting agencies. Three, we want to provide students with the necessary skills and certifications to apply for available scholarships to attend COCC emergency services programs, and four we want to provide students with the necessary skills and certifications work as a volunteer firefighter."
The health field has many opportunities. Heather Johnson noted that, "Twenty of our top 30 jobs in 2016 are slated health-medical field."