Harlingen CISD held a check presentation and groundbreaking ceremony for a fire training structure.
“You know for many years now, HCISD has been on a journey of providing choice and opportunity in certifications for meaningful and viable careers for our students,” Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola said. “So, today’s groundbreaking is another step in that journey. Today we celebrate not just this groundbreaking, but we are celebrating a JET grant that we received from the Texas Workforce Commission in the amount of $332,500 that will allow us to purchase a state-of-the-art fire structure training system.”
The Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) program provides grants for schools to purchase and install equipment needed for the development of career and technical education courses or programs.
“I give them all the credit in the world,” Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Cameron County Pat Hobbs said. “Fifty million dollars that goes to community colleges, to school districts, and to charter schools. It’s just a fabulous opportunity for the creation of new programs. And here is a great example.”
Commissioner Julian Alvarez, representing Labor on the Texas Workforce Commission, presented the district with the check.
“Dr. Noyola you have done an excellent job,” Commissioner Alvarez said. “You have elevated the school district to the next level. To those future firefighters, let me tell you, what an honorable profession. I was a first responder, but I was in law enforcement. And I had the deepest respect for the folks that were in EMS, paramedics, and firefighters because you were the first ones there to do the triage, to take care of the situation. I appreciate that. Great leadership skills that they are teaching you here. The training that you are getting here and at the high school is impeccable. Thank you very much for allowing TWC to be part of it.”
The check presentation and groundbreaking took place at the site of the structure’s future home, on the grounds of the Harlingen Fire Administration Building.
Former Harlingen Mayor, Chris Boswell shared a few words at the ceremony.
“We are very proud of them,” Boswell said. “Our first responders, our emergency personnel, and our firefighters deserve a tremendous amount of credit for being part of this important partnership of bringing up the next generation of firefighters and giving young people an opportunity to enter an honored profession, one that is truly valuable and important every single day for the safety of our community.”
HCISD opened its Fire Academy in 2018 in collaboration with the city of Harlingen. Cadets in the HCISD Fire Academy are taught the skills required for certification by Harlingen firefighters.
“This year we have learned a lot of new skills and knowledge throughout the academy,” Harlingen South senior and HCISD Fire Academy Class President Gage Richmond said. “Between working with my classmates, actual live fire training, and learning about different skills in the trade of being a firefighter, it really has been amazing.”
The HCISD Firefighter Academy is aligned with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection Basic Fire Suppression skills training. However, when it came time to complete live fire training, students had to travel to Brownsville or Edinburg.
“This structure will really save us the hassle of working on transportation and funding for the use of other facilities, and it will also serve as a great benefit to future classes because it will give other students an opportunity to efficiently do their live fire training skills,” Richmond said.
The live-fire training structure will feature ceiling roof props, a sprinkler system, interior and exterior stairwells, and a propelling tower among other features.
HCISD Director of Career and Technical Education, Dr. Raul Alvarez shared additional details about the structure.
“They are going to be able to simulate live burns, and they can change the degrees of how the fires are going to burn and in different areas, different units, and different rooms,” Dr. Alvarez said. “They can use it over, and over, and over again. This changes the dynamics of firefighting in the city.”
This new structure will allow students to complete required live-fire training, an important skill that is needed for certification, without leaving Harlingen.
“This grant is going to transform how we prepare firefighters across this entire community,” Dr. Noyola said. “When we look at the partnerships that we have with our community, and the work that we do in our school system, it is not just about impacting our students, but all of those around us. This opportunity will impact our school district, our entire Harlingen community, and potentially the entire Rio Grande Valley.”