Academy offers teens lessons in emergency services work

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:59 AM

Zeiller said he signed up for the week-long camp sponsored by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and the Grand Haven Township Fire and Rescue Department because he also heard it was fun.

“We got to try a lot of stuff you normally wouldn’t do, like rappelling off a building, riding in a fire truck, shooting guns and tearing apart cars,” he said.

Zeiller said that he thought he was benefiting the most from the medical lessons, such as how to put someone on a backboard.

Greenbauer said the week’s sessions are just making her more intent on going into the emergency services field. She said she planned to start the criminal justice program in the fall at Muskegon Community College, then transfer to Grand Valley State University to finish her schooling.

She has done rock climbing at a fitness club, but had never rappelled before. She also has shot paint guns, but expressed excitement about going to the shooting range, which was on the group’s schedule for Thursday.

Grand Haven Township firefighter and emergency medical technician Dave Wolffis was one of the first participants in the teen academy.

He said the academy definitely influenced his career decisions, so after he graduated from GHHS in 2009, he went after his associate’s degree in fire science at Muskegon Community College.

“Tom (GHT Fire Chief Tom Gerencer) told me that being a paramedic was the ticket to the dance, so I did that, too,” he said.

Last November, he was hired as full-time staffer on the fire and rescue department. This week, he is volunteering to help with the camp of 10 students, which also includes his younger brother, Kyle, a senior at GHHS.

Gerencer said he worked with OCSD Deputy Tim Smith to create the academy in 2008.

“We were talking and said the community needs something like this,” Smith said, “to give the kids a taste of what police, firefighting and EMS is all about.”

Smith said they wanted to give teenagers a chance “to try some of the things we do to see if they might be interested in a law enforcement career.”

He noted since the academy began, at least three attendees have gone on to be paramedics.

A variety of emergency personnel — primarily from the sheriff’s department and the Grand Haven Township Fire and Rescue — have been involved teaching the sessions throughout the week.

The 10 participants started the week with an introduction to emergency services and physical agility testing. They were scheduled to end the week with a hazardous materials incident, a session on defensive tactics, searching for a person in a smoke-filled building and water rescue.

Other sessions during the week included medical care training, auto accident investigation, crime scene investigation, a tour of Central Dispatch, simulated incident training, hose line advancement and a K-9 demonstration.

Gerencer said they’ve had a great group of kids participating this week.

The next Teen 911 Academy is tentatively scheduled for June 18-22, 2012.

Anyone interested in participating should contact Gerencer at 842-5988.

For more information on emergency services careers contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department or Grand Haven Township Fire/Rescue.


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