This year the Center School District will introduce a new career study for its Real World Learning program at Center High School: First Responders. Photo by Bill Rankin

Center’s First Responders course is first of its kind 

“We want to paint a clearer, more transparent picture for our kids – this is what firefighting or law enforcement looks like.”

By Shana Siren Kempton

Center High School’s Real World Learning Program debuted its First Responders course for the 2023-24 school year with an enrollment of 21 students seeking practical experience in three major areas of first response including emergency medical services, firefighting, and law enforcement. 

The First Responders course is the first of its kind in the country. It serves students from Center, Ruskin, and Grandview High Schools. This immersive experience allows students to explore all aspects of first response during a one-year course as they look toward understanding and possibly advancing in a related career. 

Hickman Mills’ Real World Learning Facilitator, Bethany Kelly, designed this unique course to offer students a broader spectrum of opportunities within the field. Each quarter of the course focuses on one of the three main areas of first response starting with EMT and paramedics. 

“As a junior, they get their toes wet – they get to understand these different programs and then go in deeper in the last quarter and come up with real world solutions to address a specific problem,” says Kelly.

Through successful participation, students will exit the course with multiple market value assets such as certifications in First-Aid, CPR, and OSHA 10 as well as a completed client connected project within the realm of their choice.

First Responders from Grandview and Kansas City participated in a special Career Pathway event on August 22 at Center High School. Photo by Bill Rankin

“We want to paint a clearer, more transparent picture for our kids – this is what firefighting or law enforcement looks like – so that they know what they’re getting into,” says Jeremy Covey, Center’s Student Success Coordinator. “I think what they see on TV is what they think that career is and there is so much more that goes into these careers including the certifications that they have to have.” 

Led by Center High School Nurse Roxanne Glover, specialists from the Kansas City and Grandview Fire and Police Departments will join the instruction as regular guest lecturers. Site visits, hands-on experiences, a mentorship, and an applied project are all highlights of this course.

Glover was the ideal candidate to teach the class. The students know her and she brings real world experiences of her own in medicine and as a former military service member. “The main reason we chose her is that she’s real with our kids and they gravitate towards her.” says Covey. 

Taji Coleman, a senior at Center High School, registered for the First Responders course with a personal interest in law enforcement – not because she wants a career as a police officer but as a social worker. Her dad died four years ago. “Ever since then I just wanted to help kids my age to cope with different things,” says Coleman. 

Through a course at Herndon Career Center in Raytown she discovered a connection between social work and law enforcement and wants to further explore this relationship as well as issues facing the black community during her applied project. “It will help me see things from different points of view and see how different situations are handled,”

Coleman says. “I’m just excited to learn more and work more with people and to be out in the real world.”

Glover adds, “Part of the goal of this program is to let students see what is available. You don’t have to be a firefighter or a police officer to work in those fields. They need social workers too.”

In the midst of critical staffing shortages impacting law enforcement and fire departments, the partnership with these stakeholders benefits all involved. Kelly explains, “We are bringing career tech classes into all of our high schools because the ‘real world’ is that not everyone goes to college.” 

Juniors who complete the First Responders course have the opportunity in their senior year to transfer to Herndon for their Law Enforcement/Police Science Program or to Summit Technology Academy for their Health Science Pathway or Fire Academy slated to begin next fall.


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