Courses offered in upcoming year through partnership between the school district, Molalla Fire District and Clackamas Community College

In what Molalla High School Principal Brad Berzinski calls a "win-win-win" partnership, students will have the opportunity to take fire science classes at the high school in the upcoming academic year.

The partnership is between the high school/school district, Molalla Fire District and Clackamas Community College. Students who take the classes will receive both high school and college credit.

"We just want to continue to make sure that we're providing opportunities for our students to start down a career path and be well prepared to walk out into that real world after graduation," Berzinski said.

The classes come at no cost to students, the school district or even tax payers.

"We do not have a penny of this coming out of Molalla River School District, nor a penny of it coming out of our students' pockets," Berzinski said.

Last summer, Molalla Fire Lieutenant Byron Wakefield secured a more than $600,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of recruitment and retention. The four-year grant is covering the costs associated with the hire of Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Dustin Hamilton, as well as the classes, which Hamilton will teach.

The college is providing the curriculum, training for Hamilton and granting credits.

The school is providing the space and the students.

The school district, Molalla Fire and CCC have all signed a contract, agreeing upon other more specific tasks for each partner.

As of the 2018-2019 academic year, the offered classes are broken down into a three-part sequence to be taken over the course of the year. The classes are FRP-291 Fire Academy Part 1, FRP-292 Fire Academy Part 2 and FRP-293 Fire Academy Part 3. The courses include both lecture and hands-on training, with a one Saturday per month commitment.

The partners hope to add Emergency Medical Technician classes the following year to be taught by a CCC instructor and also funded through the grant, according to Hamilton.

Each of the classes are worth three college credits, offering students an incredible jump start to college and a fire or EMT career.

"If these students complete all of the assigned class work and attend hands on training as well as their EMT-Basic class the following year, they will graduate with their Firefighter certification and EMT-Basic which will give them a head start to pursuing a career in the fire/ems field," Hamilton said. "That is something that we can be very proud of."

According to Berzinski and Hamilton, students (of all kinds) have demonstrated interest in the program.

"One of the things that we are already proud of is the fact that we have a lot of female students that are very interested in taking this series," Hamilton said. "Females in the fire service is a very under-represented demographic. This is something I would like to change in our area. Our hope is to retain these students as volunteers for our fire district to continue their training, response to emergency calls, to assist them with a career path in the fire service and overall service to our community."

The program is modeled after a similar West Salem High School, fire department and Chemeketa Community College partnership. Once Molalla's program is up and running, they'd like to expand it to more area schools.

Kristen Wohlers
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