• June 4, 2024

STC Dual Credit Fire Academy for high school seniors

STC Dual Credit Fire Academy for high school seniors

South Texas College, in partnership with the Mission Consolidated Independent School District (MCISD) has announced the launch of its first Dual Enrollment Fire Science Academy for high school seniors, the first-of-its- kind for Hidalgo County.

On Monday, June 3, 11 students will start a year-long, college-level training program at no cost to them or their families, to earn a Basic Firefighter Certificate before they graduate high school in May 2025.

“We’re incredibly excited to announce this partnership and expand opportunities for our high school students interested in career and technical pathways,” said STC Associate Vice President of Dual Credit Programs and School District Partnerships Rebecca De Leon, Ed.D. “This new program is a game-changer for our students. They will have the chance to take courses at STC with our dedicated faculty and earn a certification before they even graduate high school, all at no cost. It’s a wonderful opportunity that can truly set them on a successful career path.”

Students from three different high schools – Mission Collegiate High School, Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School, will attend classes part-time at STC’s Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr during the summer, fall and spring semesters.

Once they graduate and earn their certificate, they will be eligible to take the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP) firefighter license examination.

“This program is not just about education; it’s about providing our students with a clear pathway to a fulfilling an impactful career in firefighting,” said Mission CISD Director of Career and Technical Education Gerardo Gonzalez. “We are thrilled to introduce this program to our seniors.”

Through an ongoing collaborative effort with the Mission Fire Department, students will also receive first-hand mentorship experience that will prepare them for the workforce.

“All the collaboration within our school, with the district and with the Mission Fire Department has been incredible. It has been exciting to see everyone working together toward establishing this new opportunity for our youth,” said Leonardo Castaneda, STC’s director of Academies and High School Projects. “It’s a testament to what true partnership can achieve.”

To prepare for the program’s launch, STC’s faculty and staff hosted an orientation event with parents and prospective students, showcasing the rigorous requirements and hands-on skills necessary to become a firefighter, including climbing a 100-foot ladder, participating in real fire training exercises and using heavy machinery for vehicle extrication.

Priscilla Alferez, whose son Moises Gaona is part of the inaugural cohort, expressed her gratitude for this opportunity and takes pride in her son’s dream of becoming a firefighter.

“I’m so excited for him. I know this is something he’s passionate about,” she said. “I’m not worried about the physical demands of the program because I know this is something he really wants to do, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity,” she said.

Gaona shared that he discovered his passion for the fire service through law enforcement competitions where he placed among the top competitors in some state-level law enforcement contests.

“I enjoyed bunker gear races, fire, search and rescue, and anything related to firefighting,” he shared. “I’m incredibly excited to take my first step into this career and follow a path to help others.”

Just like other Dual Credit opportunities, this new program will save students time and money, enabling them to advance more quickly towards an associate degree in fire science, offered online at STC, and additional credentials such as a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.

“It’s a mighty step forward for the Rio Grande Valley. As the region continues to grow, we are expanding our opportunities, which is definitely going to meet the demand for more personnel in the region in such an important profession,” added Castaneda. ” It’s a great opportunity, and we’re excited to provide it.”

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