The new school year began for Sun Prairie students on Tuesday, September 5th. But this is no ordinary school year for 11 Prairie Phoenix (PPA) students. Thanks to a pilot program created by the SPFD, PPA, and MATC, these students are also attending MATC's Fire Academy Program.
In April, firefighters from the SPFD visited PPA to talk to students about career paths and mentorship. A few days later, PPA students had an opportunity to visit the fire station to see it firsthand and
hear more about the proposed program. The visits garnered good interest from a number of students. "We had strong student and parent responses to the program," says SPFD Chief Chris Garrison. The interested students and their families then met at the fire station to meet with Chief Garrison and Principal Bollinger for an interview process and to sign paperwork for participation.
PPA provides the school experience in a more flexible environment, allowing students to be gone for four hours a day and still work on the credits they need to graduate. Principal Bollinger explains, "This is about identity formation, making a difference and
belonging. This is caring, tough, and cool work that will help our students answer the question; "How are you going to make the world a better place?" This is a question that Bollinger is challenging all PPA students to think about this year.
MATC will shuttle the students from PPA each morning to the Fire Academy where they will attend classes and training, and return them to PPA where they will finish out their school day. MATC's School of Human & Protective Services Dean Shawna Carter adds, "This is a partnership that provides high school youth with the opportunity to take college credit by participating
in our Fire Academy while in high school. Upon completion, students will be prepared to be certified firefighters for our community and be able to enter the fire service workforce. We hope the students will find this to be a meaningful addition to their high school coursework and we hope to use a model like this to increase volunteerism and service by youth in our communities in the fire service."
Nancy Everson, the SPHS School to Career Manager, says, "This partnership fell into place nicely. Madison College is providing the instruction, transportation, and college credit. The school district is providing the books and uniforms and the Fire Department is providing mentorship and student support."
Chief Garrison explains, "This is about taking some of our most at-risk youth and helping them to do some of the most important work in Sun Prairie. We want our organization to be as diverse as our City and growing this program, from the inside out, gives us that opportunity". Garrison said there is a shortage of firefighters in Wisconsin so this program serves the need on so many levels; for the kids, the City, and beyond. "We are getting calls from other area fire departments about this program; Madison is interested. This is going to be huge."
was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal on September 18, 2017 and on
on September 19, 2017.