During the first responders visit June 9, students saw a Center Line Public Safety tank.

During the first responders visit June 9, students saw a Center Line Public Safety tank.

Photo provided by Christine Akroush

Students get up close with first responders

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 20, 2023

CENTER LINE — Local first responders visited Center Line High School June 9 to talk to second grade students about their careers.

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics set up their vehicles and equipment outside in the high school parking lot. As the second graders visited each station, the first responders shared details about what they do while on duty, the qualifications needed in their line of work, and their experience in fighting fires and responding to emergencies.

The students were enthused when looking at the vehicles — including ambulances and firetrucks — that made the scene. One highlight was the landing of a MedStar Health helicopter on the school’s soccer field that flew out of the Oakland/Troy Airport.

The presentations were part of the district’s focus to expose students at all grade levels to career pathways. According to Danielle Lapka, the district’s K-8 career readiness coach, the goal at the elementary level is to structure learning opportunities where students can discover the world around them.

That “discovery” at the elementary level is designed to encourage active engagement; promote motivation, responsibility, and independence; develop creativity and problem-solving skills; and provide a tailored learning experience for our students.

“We had about 200 students. We want them to get an understanding of what we do and that this is a career you can do,” Center Line High School Emergency Medical Services and firefighting teacher Dave Watts said. “It gets them to say, ‘This is what I want to do for a living.’ The earlier you get kids excited about something the better it is.”

The high school offers the following courses as part of the first responders pathway: emergency medical responder, emergency medical technician, and firefighting. The EMT and firefighting courses are available for students who don’t attend Center Line High School to take as part of the Southwest Macomb Technical Education Consortium.

SMTEC is a partnership between local districts that offers career and technical education classes to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Students can enroll in the classes in another district if their home school or district does not offer the classes they select. Busing is available.

Through the EMT program, the students have an opportunity to achieve National Registry status. Through the firefighting class, they can earn their certifications. Several students who were once in the Center Line first responders program attended the presentations for the second graders.

Andrea Maizy, a 2021 Center Line High School graduate, took emergency medical technician classes while at Center Line. She is now working as an EMT at Superior Ambulance Service.

“I really enjoy it. I was so grateful to have it at Center Line. It saved me a lot of money,” Maizy said. “I really enjoy the patient contact because I want to be a doctor.”

She is currently attending the University of Michigan.

Natalie Derra, a Lakeview High School student who graduated in 2022, was one of the students who attended the first responders classes through SMTEC.

“I started junior year,” she said.

She is now a member of the Center Line Public Safety Department and is also on staff at Universal Ambulance Service. Derra said she was called to do this work “to help people” and “to be there for people on their worst days.”

“I absolutely love EMS, meeting new people and working with great people,” Derra said. “You get a perspective you don’t get anywhere else.”

Peck second graders Aubree Credit, Christopher Evans and Cameron McClellan said they were “excited” about the first responders visit.

“We got to go in the fire trucks,” Evans said.

McClellan said he learned that firefighters wear self-contained breathing apparatus equipment for a very good reason.

“When you’re in a tight space and it’s smoky, you don’t want to breathe in that smoky air,” McClellan said.

“The police and firetrucks and ambulances, they have to save people,” said Credit, who would like to become a police officer when she gets older. “I would save someone or take someone to jail.”