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Columbus Graduates First Class Of Fire Cadets

Columbus Division of Fire firetruck
Columbus Division of Fire firetruck

Columbus’ first-ever fire cadet class graduated on Monday. The two-year paid training program aims to boost diversity in the division.

The cadet program doesn’t guarantee members a position with the fire department, but the city sees the program as way to develop a pipeline of diverse, highly qualified applicants.

Columbus Public Safety director Ned Pettus beamed as he congratulated the class.

“The investment you made in yourself, positions you to succeed wherever you go,” he said. “We hope it will be here with us.”

Three-quarters of the 20-member class have already secured employment in the field of fire and EMS. Five of those are with the Columbus Division of Fire. Three have already been placed with a fire company and the other two are part of the current recruit class.

Jarrel Jackson is one of those taking up a post with the division. He spoke on behalf of the class during the ceremony about the camaraderie the cadets developed through the program.

“One thing that couldn’t be taught, but only learned through experience, and that’s to make it through we make it through together, or not at all,” Jackson said.

Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin urged those who hadn’t secured positions yet to keep trying.

“Use that energy, use the training that so many folks have poured into you. It’s our down payment into you,” Hardin said. “We need you on our division, we desperately need you in our division, because you are Columbus, you are who we are, and you are the future of this division.”

City officials like Hardin, Pettus and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also see the program as a way to help restore trust with communities of color. Ginther reflected on the gap in representation among first responders like fire and police – about 30% of the city’s population is Black, but only about 10% of those serving in uniform are people of color.

“As the first class of this program you are paving a way for future classes and providing a path to start a lifelong career of saving lives and serving our neighbors,” Ginther said. “This is also your chance to be an ambassador to our neighborhoods, to build trust between first responders and residents they seek to protect.”

The second class of cadets is already under way.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.