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Summer program transforms at-risk students into firefighters

10:08 PM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- There may be more fun ways to spend a summer than running in the heat while wearing 60 pounds of gear, but for a group of teenagers who dream of being firefighters there's nothing more rewarding.

That's where the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Summer Youth Academy comes in, giving at-risk students a two-week crash course in everything from fire equipment to CPR to the dangers of meth labs. It's all free of charge and funded by grants.

Even on the third day of the academy, which runs through July 20, students are simulating battling fire attacks and crawling through tight spaces during search and rescue missions.

"This training is almost as intense as what we do for our day-to-day personnel," says Captain Robert Collins, an academy instructor. "[The teenagers] are susceptible to be led down the wrong path, and we hope with this program, it will be an intervention. We stress why we want to stay on the right path."

15-year-old Jared Del Rio knows this is the right path for him.

"On 9/11, I saw this picture of firemen pulling out this priest, and I've always gotten inspired through that picture," he says. "I would put my life on the line to save somebody else."

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