All in the Family
Many first responders will tell you they started their journey young. Keith Hanks was sworn in as a firefighter at age 18, with family history going back many generations. Don Pemberton, a 4th generation firefighter, started as a volunteer before going to college for fire science and later becoming a paramedic as well. (Watch for Don’s Spotlight later this month here.) Both came from families fully emerged in the fire service.
The same is often true for law enforcement families and many other first responder groups. The theme is rooted in family and childhood. It’s an influence that can’t be denied. Those born with a servant’s heart, or who have grown up around such service, tend to lean towards that calling.
If you think young people can’t make an impact as first responders, think again.
“A group of high schoolers in Long Island, New York, traded their graduation robes for firefighter gear last week when a fire broke out near their school… Eric Haruthunian, as Ryan Parmegiani, Kasumi Layne-Stasik, Hunter Volpi, Andrew Patterson, Shane Hartig and Peter Rizzo dropped what they were doing and rushed to the Port Jefferson Fire Department firehouse to help with the fire.”Jisha Joseph, Upworthy (June 2022)
The teens ended up responding to a classmate’s house fire that day, one of them still in his tie. It just goes to show that those committed to service are fully committed, no matter their age. This brings both hope and inspiration for future generations in emergency services.
Lewis County, IL has a volunteer fire department leaving few around during the day to respond to calls. This is familiar to many departments across the country. As the average age of firefighters increases, the staff numbers are dropping, but in Lewis County there’s a new trend. Young volunteers are joining and responding to calls. This will mean a future fire department for the county with fresh, young faces and years of service ahead.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police have a program called Discover Policing, where many opportunities await youth interested in law enforcement. Some of the opportunities include an Explorers program, ride-a-longs, a Citizen’s Police Academy for Youth, and mentoring programs. Through programs like this, young people can discover more about law enforcement and see first-hand if it’s for them. This and other initiatives like it are making a positive impact in the way police and other first responders interact with the public.
There’s so many opportunities out there for teens to do in first responder life in a positive way, but we’ll just highlight one more here: the Teen CERT program. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. This is a national program that trains young people to assist with emergency preparedness and responses in a variety of ways from shelter assistance to crowd control to school ALICE drills, and more.
Supporting Our Youth
Never underestimate the impact you can have on a young person. With a growing number of programs for youth and interest in first responder life, there’s one more thing needed. It’s the reason First Responder Coaching exists: mental health preparedness! We need to encourage mental health education among young and old alike. We love that our teens are interested in carrying on the first responder world, and to show our love, we need to support them in all facets: training physically, mentally, and emotionally. Let’s keep supporting our teens, our first responders, and our whole community.