2015-08-21 / In the Know

SMCC public safety live-in students move in

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special to the Leader

This is the time of year when many college students are doing last-minute shopping for dorm rooms. But instead of moving into their dorm room on campus, five new Southern Maine Community College Public Safety Live-In students moved into Scarborough fire stations last weekend.

This is the 27th year of our very successful student live-in program. It started as a collaborative effort between Scarborough, Gorham, and Southern Maine Community College and has since spread to 18 different departments all across southern Maine.

The students are welcomed into our fire stations where they work beside our full-time, per-diem, and call staffs gaining invaluable practical experience. This year we have a total of 15 students spread between five of our neighborhood fire stations.

“The student live-in program is a triumph of collaboration among the students, the host communities and the college,” said Steve Willis, SMCC Fire Science department chairman and live-in coordinator. “The students receive training, earn credentials and gain experience that is invaluable to their academic and career preparation; the communities benefit from well-trained and passionate personnel at relatively low cost, and the college fulfills its mission by supporting area communities and increasing student success rates.”

The program is designed from the ground up to prepare these young adults for future careers in the fire/EMS service. They start by filling out job applications, including cover letters and resumes. They attend formal interview sessions very similar to a job interview where they compete with dozens of other students from all over the country who are looking for one of the limited slots available in our program. They come for the experiential learning opportunities that the program offers due to our longevity and proven track record of success. They leave our program as solid, well-trained candidates ready to compete for a wide range of public safety jobs.

The stakes are high. More than 100 firefighters die in the line of duty – and tens of thousands are injured – in the U.S. each year doing the types of jobs that these college students are being trained to do safely and effectively. We expect our live-in students to be fully functional front-line firefighters once they are trained and oriented.

Our students work side by side with our veteran staff driving ambulances and fire trucks, providing emergency medical care, fighting fires and performing rescues – whatever the situation requires on a daily basis, providing us with urgently needed additional manpower. The students haven’t had much time to enjoy their summer. In June, after graduating from high school, they were interviewed, accepted into the program and attended an orientation day where they received textbooks, homework assignments and online quizzes to take over the course of the summer in preparation for their three-week “trial by fire” Firefighter 1 and 2 Academy. The academy is an intensive basic training program that prepares students for service as first responders in their adopted greater-Portland fire departments. The students have completed two of the three weeks of classes that will conclude just in time to begin their fall courses in fire science and paramedicine at SMCC the first week in September.

The live-in student program has proven to be a great feeder program, as several of the more than 200 former graduates of our program are now full-time employees on fire apparatus, in dispatch, staffing ambulances, and in leadership roles within our department and many others all across New England.

I want to welcome the new live-in students to our department and congratulate them on their acceptance into this outstanding program and exciting and important profession.

For more information, email mthurl@ci.scarborough. me.us or call 730-4201.

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