WIOA First Responder Program instills career training for youth
July 7, 2023
Gila River Indian News
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) continues its summer First Responders Cadet Program for youth from June 12 - July 28. The unique First Responder Cadet Program works in collaboration with the Gila River Police Department (GRPD), Gila River Fire Department (GRFD), and Gila River Emergency Management Services (GREMS).
Open to ages 14-18, the seven-week program provides youth the opportunity to learn and gain hands-on experience in public safety through an in-depth look at day-to-day operations with experienced instructors in the field.
“I think it’s a great program to introduce the youth here in the Community to public safety in general, but our ultimate goal would be to have them go in those career routes, whether it’s fire, PD, EMS, or higher education,” said Robert Jackson, GRFD. He began working with the program as an instructor in 2017.
The program challenges participants to accomplish physical and mental education training in each department. This year, 12 cadets joined the summer program, where they trained at GRPD’s training facility in Chandler.
The program initially began with GRPD, which provides insight into dispatch, officer protocols, officer safety, Miranda warnings, firearms safety and training, and much more.
Eventually, throughout the years, GRFD and EMS were introduced and now offer firefighter training and medical education as part of the program.
Participants receive a stipend through WIOA and are eligible to receive CPR training and certification through EMS. This added certification will allow them to become better prepared and equipped as they enter their careers.
For departments like GRFD, physical demands are much higher, so the program also partners with the Tribal Wellness Center instructors, who provide physical education and exercise. Cadets are also allowed to practice drills in firefighter uniforms.
Sayuri Jackson, District 3, a first-time participant in the program, said she’s gained a lot of leadership skills and a better understanding of public health and safety. She’s also made new friends in the program.
“We all help each other figure out how fast can we get on our turnouts or how can we resuscitate someone in the orderly time,” said Jackson. “I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills and just maybe what career I might go into. It’s a really good program. It just helps me a lot, honestly.”
Second-year participant, Vincent Alvidrez, District 7, said it’s much more inclusive this year with more participants. “We get better activities and whatnot because we get more people and that’s more people to learn and that’s more people who have better knowledge out there,” said Alvidrez.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer program steadily increased, with its largest class of 16 cadets in 2019. The program is slowly seeing those numbers return, with 12 cadets this summer.
“If you’re looking for good interactions while also having fun learning environment, possibly meeting and making new friends along the way, if you want an opportunity in any of the three public safety departments, definitely join. It had to be one of the best decisions I’ve made personally,” said Alvidrez.
Rebecca Lewis, EMT with Gila River EMS, said, “I do believe that this program has given us great results in the past. We have four or five of our cadets that are now in the public safety fields to date.”
Lewis instructs the cadets on how to perform CPR on infants and adults while going over other life-saving techniques, such as applying a tourniquet and more.
“Our goal here is to teach these kids about gaining medical knowledge and trying to get them familiar with what we do in the field, so that way it kind of gives them a clear picture of what we do as EMS to kind of help them decide if that’s what they want to do,” said Lewis.
For any youth interested in the First Responders Program, contact any participating departments: Fire, EMS, or GRPD, and ask them about the program. And for interested adults, a year-round program is also available for those 18 and older.