Old Rochester Regional School Committee member Joe Pires couldn’t say enough positive words about the M.M.R. Hose CO. Explorer Post 343 cadet program, a collaborative effort led by Tri-Town firefighters committed to providing young people with the experience and training to be future firefighters.
Pires praised the program on March 26 before presenting the cadets and their leaders with certificates of merit and appreciation.
The program, Pires said, is a success due to the commitment of the cadet leaders, “The people who just give wholeheartedly to this program.”
“I personally have witnessed fine people in this community taking our children as if they were their own,” said Pires, whose son Matthew is a cadet. The skills the program has offered, the education, the experience, Pires said, “I can’t say enough.”
Out of the ten cadets in the program, eight were present for the ORR School Committee meeting to talk about their experiences so far as a firefighter cadet.
Josh Marcio said the cadet program is just like what one would encounter in firefighting academy.
“This is a real good career option,” said Marcio. “It teaches … team building, leadership, and I think that’s one of the most important parts – it’s just amazing.”
Amber Jones found herself facing her fear of heights, which she is sure she will get over eventually, along with any other fears she might have had before.
“They definitely push us to accomplish what we want to accomplish and help us to get over our fears,” Jones said. “And no matter what we have at home, we have a second family with each other,” said Jones. Having known many of the other cadets for years, she said the program has strengthened their friendships as they all seriously consider a future in firefighting.
Jones said she never even thought about firefighting as a career path, but once she became a cadet, “…And seeing how it works and the togetherness of everyone … I definitely knew almost immediately that I wanted to do this for my career, and my family is totally surprised by that.”
One cadet said the program has made him a better person, more open and outgoing.
“It’s an environment where kids can grow and learn … teamwork,” said Rochester Firefighter Tracey Eldridge. “And community is really important.”
The training is intense, and the experience as real as it gets in a controlled environment. Cadets have learned ice rescue techniques, worked inside rapid intervention mazes with wire entanglement props and confined spaces, high elevations, all to begin the recruitment process for the future firefighters of Tri-Town, said Rochester Fire Captain Jeff Eldridge.
“It’s really important that we start building our future firefighters and to see them all together – that’s what does it for me,” Eldridge said. “They take care of each other.”
“And to be able to watch these kids grow and come out of their comfort zone has been amazing,” Tracey Eldridge said. “And we only hope to build the program and a better place, a safe place for kids to do something different.”
After a video presentation showcasing the program, Pires continued praising the program.
“To see all of those images, it tells a story,” Pires said. “It is amazing to just witness and watch … you kids perform and do things maybe that you thought you couldn’t do.”
In other matters, ORR High School Principal Mike Devoll gave an update on some of the new courses the committee approved at the last meeting, as well as a list of additional courses slated for next year.
The first wave of new courses features Advanced Placement Latin, Lego Robotics, Computer Science for All, and AP Computer Science Principles.
“I’m happy to report that all have very strong student interest,” Devoll said. “…Huge.”
The committee approved some additional courses, including a themed English course called Monsters, Murder, and Madness, which Devoll said was a college prep level course. Other courses were technology-based, like Introduction to CAD design, Intro to 3D design, Advanced Robotics, and Intro to Game Design.
“The intent was to expand and grow the Technology Department at the school,” Devoll said, while touching upon an additional technology teacher position currently funded in the fiscal year 2019 budget. “I think the big takeaway is that whenever we decided to add a second tech position, it sounds great but it’s about marshaling the kids … and that’s always a concern. The kids have to show interest.”
Devoll said it’s possible he could be looking at a third technology teacher position next year if increased student interest in tech courses continues, with demand for computer science and engineering on the rise.
“I think these classes look great. I wish I was a student,” said School Committee member Michelle Smith.
Also during the meeting, Business Administrator Patrick Spencer introduced the one bid for the construction of a new security vestibule at the high school for $9,761, which the committee approved. The same company that installed the junior high vestibule will install the high school vestibule, and construction will start as soon as school lets out for the summer.
As it stands, the last day of school will be June 25.
The next meeting of the old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for April 25 at 6:30 pm at the Old Rochester Regional Junior High School media room.
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry