Dr. King Junior Fire Cadet Program Teaches Self-Development
Published on 2/26/18
District News Extra-Curricular Dr King Elementary School
“You have to push yourself to do the right thing, not the wrong thing,” a Dr. King student suggested to his group of peers.
Students each shared what the term ‘self-discipline’ meant to them to kick off a bimonthly meeting of the Dr. King Junior Fire Cadet program.
“I wanted to be a Cadet because I wanted to be a better leader,” fifth grader Nyshad Mathis said. “It shows me what self-discipline and self-respect mean and how I can show that in class, and it helps me show other kids in school how to do the right thing.”
New this year in partnership with F.O.C.U.S. (Firefighters of Color United in Syracuse), the program focuses on mentorship, character building and family and community engagement. Twice a month after school, the group of third through fifth graders meets with Syracuse firefighters to talk about life skills, bullying and drug prevention, Internet safety, conflict resolution and more. In December, the group walked to the Central Park Rehabilitation Center, where they donated items that they collected through a community service project, including holiday gifts and cards.
“The students are discovering their leadership skills and hidden talents by completing restorative circle trainings with Dr. Robert Spicer as well as participating in after school meetings and activities with Syracuse Firefighters,” program coordinator Twan Gyder said. “As the program continues, the cadets will be able to facilitate circles within their class and grade level without the help of the teachers, giving them a chance to share their feelings and thoughts. Our ultimate goal is to help promote a positive learning environment and climate around our school and community.”
To participate in the program, students must maintain a positive attitude and be willing to challenge themselves to become better each day. To remain in the group, Cadets are expected to demonstrate the skills they are learning in the after school meetings in their daily activities. In just a few months, teachers have already said they have seen a jump in development, confidence and motivation of the Cadets, noting that they speak to and treat their classmates in a more positive way since joining the program.
“It’s cool to see these kids do well in school, get good grades and be motivated,” Fire Chief Lt. Michael Monds explained. “My goal with this program, ultimately, is to bring the tools and equipment here to engage the students at a young age and then stay in their lives. We want to let the kids know that they can be firefighters – that when it comes time to selecting an area of study in high school or after, that they can join our program.”
Some of the Cadets – third through fifth graders – are already expressing an interest in firefighting as a future career.
“I want to be a nurse or firefighter when I grow up,” fifth grader Plejerae Carter explained. “Junior Cadets is great because I get to see the Fire Chief and learn about what he had to do to be Chief. In Cadets, we share a friendship because we’re learning about what is right and wrong. It makes me want to help people when I grow up!”
Thank you to Mr. Gyder and F.O.C.U.S. for helping to develop students’ leadership skills through Junior Fire Cadets.