Ten Apopka High School seniors took the first steps Wednesday, April 19, in a progressive career education program that will make them nationally certified emergency medical technicians by the end of this summer.
The new course is provided free of charge in Apopka through a cooperative partnership of the city of Apopka and the Apopka Fire Department, CareerSource Central Florida, and the Orlando Medical Institute College of Health Sciences (OMI).
The students are part of Apopka Youth Works – a summer employment and career-education program helping 100 high school juniors and seniors from the Apopka area.
Most of those 100 students will work for seven weeks this summer at various local businesses, learning employment skills and earning weekly paychecks paid through Apopka Youth Works. They first will undergo a week of employment and financial management training from Valencia College and the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Dollarwise Program.
That is where the 10 AYW students – all from Apopka High School – are different. They are choosing to forego the summer jobs and weekly paychecks to take on a much bigger career challenge. They are enrolling in an intensive educational program with a much bigger financial benefit – completely tuition-free, college-level training to earn EMT certification, which will lead them into careers as firefighters, nurses and – some hope – doctors.
“This is a wonderful new opportunity for Apopka Youth Works, which has grown from 32 to 100 students in only its third year,” said Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, who created Apopka Youth Works as a pledge to help Apopka’s youth. “These students are challenging themselves like never before to get a head start on medical and firefighting careers. Better yet, they are Apopka students who will do it right here without leaving their hometown. That is pretty amazing.”
Classes will meet three times a week for 10 weeks at Apopka’s Gilliam Training Center with instructors from the fully accredited OMI College of Health Sciences. Two other days each week will be dedicated to internships.
Students will receive a total of 300 hours of classwork along with hands-on training at the Apopka Fire Department and at Florida Hospital Apopka. When completed, they will be tested to become certified emergency medical technicians and emergency vehicle operators.
The students met for the first time Wednesday, April 19, at the Gilliam Training Center for an introduction to OMI and its founder, Felix Marquez, a longtime firefighter/EMT who has taught emergency medical services for more than 20 years. Marquez currently works with the city of Orlando Fire Department. He previously worked with the New York Fire Department. He also served two tours in the military.
Students submitted applications for Apopka Youth Works earlier this year. The program will begin in Apopka on June 5.