Choffin’s Public Safety Academy Expands Offerings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A bright red firetruck and ambulance sat outside the entrance to the Choffin Career & Technical Center’s Public Safety Academy on Tuesday afternoon.

The new vehicles were part of a roughly $130,000 Innovative Workforce Incentive Program grant received to expand the academy’s EMT services.

Michael Saville, Choffin director, said the school’s Public Safety Academy has been around for many years, however, grant funds allowed them to add a lot to the program this year.

“A few years ago, we were in the basement,” he said. “We had no overhead doors, no firetrucks, no ambulances [and] no real practical equipment to work with.”

The Public Safety Academy houses Choffin’s criminal justice, fire, EMS and 911 telecommunications programs.

After years of going offsite to make up for those experiences and working with local public safety members, Saville said they are starting to see some real progress on the program.

“This year we added quite a bit of offerings – EMT included as one of our major capstone programs here and one of the major elements of what makes the academy for public safety,” he said.

Students in the academy may receive state certifications to help them easily transition into employment after graduation.

“We are really looking at a major advancement for our school with these programs,” he said. “We are really excited to bring this to our students.”

The grant helped fund equipment and a Public Safety vehicle fleet, including a new ambulance and firetruck.

“That has been a major area of need in the fire departments across the area with their need for EMT people in the workforce,” Saville said.

Instructors are made up mostly by the Youngstown Fire Department, Saville said.

Currently, the academy has only 13 students enrolled, Saville said, but he said the new expansion and offerings will allow the program to grow up to about 40 to 60 students at full capacity.

“We are really looking to ramp up enrollment,” he said.

A new firetruck and ambulance are seen at Choffin Career & Technical Center’s Public Safety Academy.

The two-year program begins in the fall and includes junior and senior students from Youngstown schools.

“They come in, take policing, do the dispatch, the background of policing and then they hop into EMT, and then firefighting in their last year,” he said.

An additional senior-only (18 and older) firefighter opportunity is offered.

Saville said what makes this program unique is the industry support they have seen from the local fire department.

“You can’t get this anywhere else, and the multiple rallies of support we see day in and day out to support our students,” he said. 

A teacher of record was hired through the police department, as well as several employees from the department to help on an hourly basis based on their expertise for the curriculum at that time.

“Right now there is a huge demand for firefighters, EMT and even police department 911 call centers,” he said. “There is a big need for it, so we are answering their call right now with the development of these expansion of programs.”

Saville said the majority of students walk out with a state certification and are able to transition into the workforce.

The school has applied for another, larger IWIP grant, Saville said. If approved, he said there may be more major changes to the program.

“We want to bring logistics and emergency services together to not only build logistics, truck driving and supply chain needs, but also that protection of the train derailment response,” Saville said.

Equipment is seen at Choffin Career & Technical Center’s Public Safety Academy.

Courtney Kelly, fire instructor for Choffin and captain at the Youngstown Fire Department, has been with the academy for about eight years. After several years working with the local ambulance and fire departments, she found a passion for teaching what she had learned.

Kelly said they typically see around 15 to 20 students each year. 

“The Youngstown Fire Department does hold some adult classes, and we are looking to implement that into the Choffin high school junior-senior program,” she said. “It could vary up to 20 to 25 [students].”

Students at the fire academy wear the appropriate gear, like a self-contained breathing apparatus, and get hands-on experiences with trained professionals while following a book curriculum.

“I think it is instrumental in the community,” Kelly said. “If you have the local fire department and police department, these kids can then reach out [and] know that we’re here for them. I think that is the strength and core of why we are so successful.”

Kelly said she has seen many success stories. She said her own daughter completed the course two years ago and is now working as a Youngstown firefighter.

“We have one student who is currently working on the ambulance, and a few [working in] local fire departments,” she said.

Kelly said she works with the outlying departments and has seen a great need for volunteers. She said they try to stay in touch with students after graduation and make sure they stay on the right path.

“We are an avenue for their career,” she said. “We have a lot of successful kids.”

While Kelly said they will not likely receive confirmation for the latest grant they have applied for until July, she said they are in need of a burn facility.

“This is for everyone in the city,” she said. “It takes a village to raise a child, and we need staffing in all the departments in the area. If we can get our own community to buy in and take part, that just helps us grow as one.”

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Pictured at top: From left, Sgt. Joshua Kelly of the Youngstown Police Department and a Public Safety instructor at Choffin Career & Technical Center; Capt. Courtney Kelly of the Youngstown Fire Department and a fire instructor at Choffin; and Michael Saville, Choffin director.

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