New Early College Public Safety Academy Could Change Hiring in the Industry

Published June 1, 2015 at 01:42 pm Fire science

Today, people know Robert Lacy as a detective with a sterling reputation with the Wichita Police Department.

But when he was in high school, Lacy was torn between choosing a career in law enforcement or becoming a graphic artist. He ended up getting a graphic arts diploma from a local school “that no longer exists,” he said with a laugh.

By the time he became a young police officer, Lacy said, there were many aspects of the job he simply had to figure out on his own. “I was way behind the curve,” he said.

That’s why Lacy is so enthusiastic about Butler’s Early College Public Safety Academy, which begins this fall. It’s one of the first programs of its kind in the country, and it’s geared toward high school students who want to get a head start in an emergency services field. 

“If they would have offered this back when I was that age, there’s no question it would have been a great benefit to me,” Lacy said. “That’s why I was so excited when I was told about this, because it’s one of the best proactive efforts I’ve ever heard of. It’s just a great idea.”

How it works

Let’s say a boy named Colton just finished his sophomore year in high school. He thinks it’d be cool to be a firefighter, and plans on doing just that when he graduates in a couple of years. So he enters Butler’s Public Safety Academy.

Colton will spend weekday mornings at the academy, which is at the Fire Science Building at 2610 West Sixth St. in El Dorado. 

After lunch he’ll return to his normal life at the high school – required classes, football practice, homework and down time.

His junior year, Colton will learn about all four aspects of the academy: Fire Science, Criminal Justice, Emergency Medicine and Emergency Communications.

His senior year, he’ll focus on Fire Science (unless one of the other fields has captured his interest).

Colton will receive a certificate of completion from the academy right about the time he graduates from high school.

And when he looks for a job? 

“Let me put it this way,” said El Dorado Fire Chief Steve Moody. “Any candidate who has gone through this program and earned that certificate in high school is going to have a great advantage over other applicants. I just know he or she would have a head start before I even hired them.”

What makes it valuable

The academy’s curriculum was built by emergency entity professionals in both Butler County and Sedgwick County. Several different families from at least six different school districts have already inquired about the program, according to director Terry Love. 

Love, who has 30 years of experience in law enforcement – most of it in Sedgwick County and most recently in Rose Hill – said the opportunity to earn endorsements and build relationships with professionals will be valuable to someone still in high school.

“A program like this could fundamentally change the way these emergency agencies hire their applicants,” Love said. “You may not think someone in law enforcement would care much how a 911 dispatcher does their job – just tell me where to go. But it’s amazing how much the entities work together, and it’s valuable to get exposure at such a young age to how they all operate.”

In getting the program together, Love sought the input of professionals like Lacy, Moody and Major Laura Meyers, who oversees quality assurance and training for Sedgwick County 911. 

Myers, who is constantly seeking candidates who are able to multi-task in urgent situations, is also a big fan of the program - and particularly likes that those going through it will have a good working knowledge of the other jobs in the emergency field.

“It’s an awesome career field,” Meyers said. “If a candidate has gone through this (Public Safety Academy) program, that would demonstrate to me that they’re truly passionate about this as a career, and not just a job that they thought looked cool on TV or in the movies.”

Most Public Safety Academy college credit hours qualify for Kansas State Senate Bill 155 (SB 155) funding for career and technical courses. The Technical Education Tuition Waiver authorizes Butler to waive the cost of tuition for high school juniors and seniors who meet residency requirements for enrollment in any tiered career technical course. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Love at (316) 323-6148 or tlove5@butlercc.edu or visit www.butlercc.edu/academies

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