Octorara Senior High School's Homeland Security and Protective Services Program is partnering with the county so its students can use the state-of-the-art equipment and tactical village as part of a pilot program.
County and school district officials said they plan to expand the program to include other school districts as early as next year. Students who complete the three-year program earn college credits and are certified firefighters. They also can complete certified emergency medical technician training.
Kimberly Olseski, a 17-year-old senior who has been in the program since it started three years ago, wants to work in law enforcement and said the program gives her a taste of being a first responder.
"It's teaching me to think about how my choices affect other people and teaching me to put other people first," she said. "It's teaching me a great amount of respect for people who are in this field."
Officials in Chester County based the new partnership on a similar program in Lancaster County, and the Octorara Area School District agreed to pay the county $13,500 per year to use the training campus.
"Fire stations in the county are really looking for a way to recruit younger individuals. But the thing is retaining them," said Beau Crowding, the county's deputy director for fire services. "It's rewarding to me to see the enthusiasm for public safety training" among the students.
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