Students also benefit from the advice and guidance of the seasoned firefighters. Since the firefighters are volunteers, they represent many different professions and act as mentors to the younger members.
There are other benefits for students who join a volunteer fire department.
Becker said junior firefighters are eligible for awards and scholarships to help pay for college. Often, qualified students can serve as firefighters in the area where they're going to college, and the fire department can provide them with room and board in what's called a bunk program, creating a substantial savings for the students as they pursue their higher education.
"This course is a big step forward and a big challenge for the fire departments and the community," Becker said.
If the course is successful in training and recruiting students for the area volunteer fire departments, the Department of Homeland Security is likely to renew the Belgium-Cold Springs Fire Department's grant to continue the elective.
Paul Becker, a volunteer firefighter with the Belgium-Cold Springs Fire Department, is the lead instructor for Baker High School's new firefighter elective. The class meets daily and prepares students to provide basic support to assist firefighters.