South High launches firefighting career program

The Sedgwick County and Wichita fire departments teamed up to bring a rappelling and fire rescue demonstration to more than 1,000 south Wichita teenagers Friday to help launch a new career and technical education pathway program set to begin this fall at South High School.

Thanks to overwhelming interest by students and a year of talks between South High Principal Cara Ledy and the Wichita school district, the school is partnering with the Sedgwick County Fire Department to offer Emergency and Fire Management Services courses and technical skills training starting in August.

Despite Friday's high winds, firefighters rappelled down a cable from the peak of a ladder reaching more than 60 feet above one of South High's parking lots.

Ledy said she hopes the day's display will encourage students to explore the program.

"The program that we are going to offer kids allows them to get a glimpse into what firefighting is all about," Ledy said. "Hopefully our program will help prepare them and put them steps ahead of others."

Courses to be offered include an introductory course in law and public safety, two courses in firefighting and one year of emergency medical technician (EMT) training.

Ledy said she anticipates the classes will fill up fast, based on pre-enrollment numbers.

Hutchinson Community College is also partnering with South High to offer college credit toward its associate degree in emergency medical science or fire science for students completing the courses. Ledy said some students would also be ready to complete EMT testing after they graduate.

South will be the second high school in the district to offer the fire science curriculum. Ledy said she hopes the new addition to South High will mirror the success of a similar partnership between the Wichita Fire Department and Northeast Magnet High School, which currently offers the Emergency and Fire Management Services pathway.

South High junior Jessica Peters, who attended Friday's demonstration, is one of several students excited to see the program implemented. Peters, 17, said she plans to use the course of study along with her involvement with the Sedgwick County Fire Department's Explorer Post 881 as a springboard into earning an associate degree in fire science from Hutchinson Community College. Explorer Post 881 is an educational program that gives 14- to 21-year-olds an opportunity outside the classroom to learn about fire, rescue and EMT response.

"It's going to be fun," Peters said. "I hope this class will open some doors for when I go to college and when I apply to be a firefighter. I'll get to meet a lot of people and to become part of the firefighter family.

"I like helping people. It's kind of a rush."