Prospect Heights Fire Chief Drew Smith knew when he was 10 years old that he wanted to be a firefighter, and the two years he spent in the Fire Cadet Program as a junior and senior at Prospect High School sealed the deal.

Now Smith is trying to pay that forward. Over spring break, he and the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District partnered with Northwest Suburban High School District 214 to offer a one-week internship in fire service. They drew eight juniors and seniors from throughout the district to participate.

“People need to try things,” Smith said. “This was all about giving them experiences and not trying to teach them the details of the tasks.”

The students donned fire gear to respond to simulated fires, rescue victims out of a smoke-filled room, learn about the levers and switches on firetrucks to control water flow, and they even rode up more than two stories on the fire truck’s aerial platform, or cherry picker.

High school interns watch a fire progress.

“It was a lot harder than I thought,” said Michael Milovich, a junior at Elk Grove High School. “It’s very taxing on your body and takes a lot mental strength.”

Another intern, Ali Alubosy who is a junior at Hersey High School, described the “smoke drill” where they had to break down a window and some drywall of a smoke-filled house to enter. Without being able to see anything, they crawled around searching for victims. Once they found someone, a dummy, they had to carry it out a window and hand it to the next person.

“It’s all about teamwork,” Ali said. “You can’t do anything without teamwork.”

Michael agreed, adding what a great experience it was just to hang out with the firefighters and learn from real people working in fire service.

Hersey junior Ali Alubosy

“They get to do every day what I want to do,” Michael said. “They get to save people, they get to help people and leave an imprint on people’s lives.”

The internship originally was designed as part of District 214’s Pathways to Careers Program, and specifically part of its Human and Public Service Pathway, which includes a path in emergency and fire management service. Now, Smith works with Kathy Gannon, who manages the district’s apprenticeship program.

This intern learns about the levers on the fire truck panel.

Immersing high school students in fire service drew the interest of the Des Plaines Firefighters’ Association, who commented on District 214’s Facebook page that local departments should offer more internships. Smith also heard from Mount Prospect Fire Chief John Dolan, who wants to partner on a future internship.

“A big part of my career and personal mission is to help young people who are thinking about a career in fire service,” Smith says.

As a 1979 Prospect High School grad, who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, he wants to inspire young people to take advantage of the district’s programs that allows them to try things and experience new opportunities.

“In fire service, they’ll be doing something every day,” Smith says, “and making a difference in people’s lives.”




Please follow and like us: