MELBOURNE — Assistant Chief/Office of Emergency Management Director Gary Dickerson recently brought a crew of firefighters to Melbourne School District’s campuses to visit with high school students in Officer Jaden Whitfield’s criminal justice classes as well as students at Bearkatz Academy and MES.

Captain/Training Officer Robert Hartgraves, Lt. Dewel Pettway, and Firefighter/First Responder Justin Edwards joined Dickerson in bringing some exciting news to the students – the Melbourne Fire Department plans to implement a Junior Firefighter program beginning in January 2021 for students between the ages of 16 and 18. The goal is to promote youth involvement in emergency agencies by teaching young people important skills in fire, rescue, and emergency medical services.

According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, “It is crucial to attract people into the emergency services while they are young so that they form a lifelong connection, whether as a first responder or as a community supporter.”

As part of the new program, the Melbourne Fire Department has established several guidelines to not only encourage ongoing academic success but to nurture responsibility and ensure the safety of all of their junior recruits. Members of Melbourne’s Junior Firefighter Program will be required to maintain a 2.5 grade point average and to attend regular monthly meetings where they will undergo training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, communications, general fire rescue and emergency medical service education, and fire safety/prevention.

While the MFD Junior Firefighters will not be allowed to operate fire department vehicles or respond to any emergency calls, they will be able to participate in activities such as parades, fundraising events, general standby, fire safety and prevention trainings, and regular meetings. The MFD also plans to assign advisers to each of the new recruits to create the all-important mentorship that is needed to ensure the program’s success.

“MHS is truly appreciative of the Melbourne Fire Department for providing this wonderful opportunity to its students, many of whom expressed genuine interest and excitement during and after the presentation,” a news release from Melbourne School District states.

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