Firefighting students keep others safe

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published November 11, 2015

CENTER LINE — The students in the Center Line High School firefighting program have found a way to help others outside the classroom.

The students recently performed a community service project in which they provided smoke detectors to residents free of charge.

In groups of three, the students planned to distribute them Nov. 7, after the Warren Weekly went to press. They also had plans to replace non-working batteries for homeowners, and a Center Line public safety officer was to accompany each group.

The students spent several weeks preparing for the project. That included seeking permission from the Center Line Public Schools Board of Education, the Center Line City Council and school administrators.

Seniors Mike Patyk and Alex Tomlinson, and class instructor Robert Plotzke, approached Home Depot representatives from the Hoover Road store for donations of smoke detectors. They were able to acquire 48 of them free of charge.

During class Nov. 4, the students practiced installing them. Class began when the “fire” bell rang. That signaled the students to head over to the fire room and put on their bunker gear, boots, helmets and gloves as if headed to a real fire.

To let the residents know of the project ahead of time, the junior firefighters distributed fliers throughout the neighborhood Nov. 2. Plotzke brought the idea for the smoke detector program to the students, and they liked it.

“We’ll install them and test them to see if they’re working. I like helping people, and my goal was to help as many people as I can,” said Dean Vandekerckhove, a Lakeview High School junior who attends the firefighting class at CLHS. “There was a lot of planning and talking to people.”

“We are generally good kids, and we want to help out,” CLHS senior Alyssa Slater said.

The firefighting program is offered in two-hour blocks and, through a consortium, is open to students outside CLHS. Patyk, for instance, attends Warren Woods Tower High School. The students enroll for different reasons and have been exposed to quite a bit, including learning all the fire gauges and seeing the ins and outs of fire hydrants.

“I’m going into law enforcement,” said Slater, who is also in the school’s law enforcement program. “It’s fun to learn about this stuff. You always got to want to help someone. This class is a lot of fun. I met a lot of good friends.”

“About a year ago, I got this thought to be a firefighter,” Vandekerckhove said. “I love doing it. I can’t wait to learn more and get hired. You need to know CPR and take an EMT class.”

“I love the class,” Patyk said. “I have wanted to be a firefighter since I was a kid.”

Plotzke said the students performed the smoke detector community service project through the district’s Project Based Learning initiative. That meant the students planned and executed the smoke detector program all on their own. They formed different committees, and everyone had a specific job.

“Project Based Learning is one of our three school improvement strategies,” CLHS Principal Benjamin Gurk said. “It’s a way to make content and learning directly relative to students’ lives. It begins with a real-world problem or question.

“The students go through a process of research and collaboration to generate the solution,” Gurk said. “Ultimately, the end of the process is where they present the solution to what we would call an authentic audience. It can be the teacher, government official or business leader.”

The firefighting students will present a final report to the school board, City Council and administrators to complete the project.