Program to train Cody students to be firefighters, EMTs

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — In an emotional address, the city’s fire commissioner on Thursday joined city and school leaders in unveiling a two-year pilot program designed to train high school students as firefighters and EMTs.

Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins gets choked up at a news conference at Cody High School’s Medicine and Community Health Academy in Detroit.

The new partnership, between the Detroit Fire Department and Detroit Public Schools, was detailed during a news conference at Cody High School’s Medicine and Community Health Academy on the city’s west side, where classes will be held.

The effort hit home for Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins, who choked up as he told the crowd how he got his start nearly 40 years ago. A stranger recommended it to Jenkins, then 19, as he was standing in the unemployment line waiting for a check after being laid off from a postal job. Four months later, he started the fire academy.

“This has been a great career for me. Now, to have this partnership between DPS and DFD to make this opportunity available to all DPS students, it really touches me,” Jenkins said. “I’m a lifelong resident. I’ve lived in this city, I’ve seen it burn. This is my community and to provide something like this for the kids ... I take it personally.”

Mayor Mike Duggan, fire union and school officials and students also joined in the announcement held at a new lab created last year as part of a $9 million renovation project for the school.

“This is how you create opportunities for young people in the city of Detroit,” Duggan said. “This is going to be a full partnership between Cody High School and the Detroit Fire Department. I’m just so pleased that we are creating this trend.”

Duggan noted the city’s EMT and firefighter unions have long stressed the importance of recruiting Detroit’s youth to be trained and to serve in the department. This program, he said, will allow Detroit students to “jump to the front of the line” in the hiring process.

The first class will begin this fall with 30 junior and senior Cody High students being trained as firefighters. The students will graduate with firefighter certification.

Shakala Johnson, a senior who will be in new program at a news conference at Cody High School’s Medicine and Community Health Academy in Detroit.

In the first year, only firefighter training will be provided to participating students. Firefighter training includes medical first responder training, which is now a requirement for new hires at the city’s fire department. The training will help prepare cadets for full EMT training in the second year of the program.

Officials say Cody students will attend classes three days per week at the Cody center for academic training. They will receive practical training two days per week at the Detroit Fire Department academy. DPS will transport the students to the training facility, officials said.

Practical training for students will take place at the fire department’s Regional Training Facility, which is housed in the former Davis Aerospace High School near City Airport.

The program will include college academic preparedness, which may include up to 40 college credits.

Officials say they hope to offer the specialized training program to DPS students across the city. Duggan said officials intend to add a second high school on the east side or in southwest Detroit next year.

Historically, the majority of the city’s fire department candidates have been young, suburban high school graduates who’ve attended schools that have offered a similar curriculum for years, officials added.

Students must be at least 17 and have medical clearance to participate in the program.