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Ind. schools, FD partner to bring fire, EMS training to high school students

Goshen students will have the ability to transfer credits toward an associate’s degree in fire science

By Dani Messick
Goshen News

GOSHEN, Ind. — Goshen Community Schools is bringing fire science to its students.

Already an option for Goshen high schoolers, through the Elkhart Area Career Center, Goshen High School Principal Kathy DeMeyer announced during Monday night’s joint city council and school board meeting that the school would be partnering with Goshen Fire Department to bring a Fire/EMT training program to the pathways hub housed at Chandler.

“When I came into office this summer, in conversations with the fire department, one of the things that I quickly learned is just how challenging it is to recruit firefighters or EMTS or anybody doing public safety — as well as a shortage of healthcare trainees as well — so we wanted to figure out, ‘Is there a way that the city could contribute to solving part of that problem?’” said Goshen Mayor Gina Leichty.

DeMeyer said Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Powell came to her asking to start a training partnership.

“From that time on I have never heard anything that would hold us back, everything was like ‘Why wouldn’t we do this for our kids?’” DeMeyer said.

Students involved in the two-year program will have the opportunity to gain transferable credits toward an associate’s degree in fire science and leave the program fully certified in EMT and fire science.

“When you come out of this program, you’re going to have everything that you need to become a certified firefighter and hirable at any department,” Powell said.

Powell said the program has been a dream of the fire department for several years.

“There’s such an emphasis on the school system side of things to develop pathway programs, so there’s a perfect alignment there between what the city sees and what other municipalities are seeing and what the schools needs are, and what kids needs are,” Leichty said. “It feels like an exciting win-win for everybody.”

The program will start at the beginning of the 2024-25 school year. Goshen Fire Department Capt. Travis Peak will be the division chief and instructor. Peak has led the fire Academy for the Goshen Fire Department for the last five years. Goshen Community Schools will also provide a mentor teacher to help guide students through the program. He’s also a 1995 Goshen High School graduate.

“The new pathway will not only provide valuable career opportunities for our students but will also contribute to the community by increasing the pool of qualified firefighters and emergency medical personnel,” DeMeyer said. “Having GHS alumni already serving as Goshen firefighters and paramedics adds a meaningful connection for us, and we hope it will serve as an inspiration for our students.”

The new program will be in the former library upstairs, along with two nearby classrooms and a kitchenette. DeMeyer also noted that the training equipment necessary is already owned by the fire department, so additional purchases aren’t necessary.

With the creation of this new training facility, the Goshen Fire Department will also have the potential to offer EMS training to the public, expanding medical training opportunities as well.

“There are enough needs to hire people for the fire department in Elkhart that they were taking the bulk of those students, who are getting amazing jobs, but not many are coming back over this way,” DeMeyer explained. “There is enough of a need to also provide it here, and there.”

DeMeyer also said that while they’re starting with just Goshen High School, if there’s interest and support, they may allow students from other districts on the east side of the county.

“There’s just such a need,” DeMeyer said.

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