Many firefighters grow up knowing that’s what they want to do. For Archie Jenkins III, the dream took shape in high school, when he learned about the Career Pathways to Public Safety program.
“We went to class for about two periods a day. We worked on physical agility, a lot of written work,” said Jenkins.
He was one of a handful of students in his graduating class at East High School to become a firefighter with the Rochester Fire Department.
“It was a great way of showing the students that didn’t want to go to college that there was another avenue for them to go into,” said Richard “Dan” Vega, a former counselor at East High.
For 15 years, Vega helped students like Jenkins work toward achieving their goals in the program.
“I was very tough on them because, naturally with the fire department, they not only had to have good grades, but they had to have the attendance,” said Vega. “I was always on them, making sure that they were in school, making phone calls home, and I was very proud of them when I saw that they’re still here working in the fire department.”
After Vega learned there were many of his former students still active in the fire department, he set out on a mission. Collecting patches from every firehouse in the city, and finding the names of every active and retired East High School graduate with the RFD.
The department’s Chaplain, Jim Boccardo, who’s also a graduate of East, is helping Vega gather those names. Already, they’ve found about one-hundred.
“I’ve got names going back to 1960 of guys that graduated and became firefighters and are now retired,” said Boccardo.
Their goal is two-fold: to honor the service these firefighters provide to their own community, and to show a younger generation of current students they can do the same.
“I think it’s great for the students to realize that you can graduate and get a great career out of high school if you put the work and effort in,” said Boccardo.
“I would tell them, you know, just don’t hangout with the wrong crowd. Work hard, do your homework. Just, you know, stay focused. That’s the big thing. Stay focused and don’t give up,” said Jenkins.
Vega said it will take some time, but once he finishes his list, he’s going to have a plaque made in their honor. He also hopes to gather a number of firefighters who are East alumni to speak with current students in the near future about the possibilities of entering the fire service.
If you’d like to get in contact with RFD for this project, please contact James Boccardo via Facebook.
For more information on the Career Pathways to Public Safety program, click here.