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High School Cadets Finish Fire Academy

May 21, 2000|GREG RISLING

To the applause of family and firefighters, 77 high school students graduated Saturday from a seven-week fire academy at Valley College.

The Fire Instruction, Recruitment and Education academy is a program offered by Valley College and the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The cadets spent about 30 hours learning the essential skills the department requires of its recruits. Once taught the basics, students were split into companies and competed against one another.

Ralph Rodriguez, an apparatus operator with the Fire Department, started the program several years ago at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. After receiving a good response, Rodriguez worked out the details with Valley College to offer the academy to three Valley high schools--Monroe, Van Nuys and Grant.

"The earlier you help prepare these kids for the future, the better," Rodriguez said. "It's like entering a marathon. You don't start training a couple of weeks before the race. You start preparing months and maybe even years before it."

Proud parents and siblings had cameras in hand, snapping away as their sons and daughters demonstrated the drills they learned. One company sprinted down the street as they unfurled a length of hose from a fire engine. Another team used a 20-foot ladder to reach the roof of the college's business building.

Their hard work under the blistering sun was rewarded. Each student received a certificate of completion and some were presented with awards.

Angel Alvarez, an 18-year-old senior at Grant High School, had trouble carrying all of the trophies he received. He was named the academy's top cadet, engine captain and leader of the best company.

Alvarez, who will enter the Marine Corps after graduation, said his life's ambition is to become a firefighter. "I want to follow in my father's footsteps," said Alvarez, who remembers riding along with his father when he worked as a firefighter. "I saw the joy it brought to people. I want to continue in that tradition."

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