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Fired up to help at-risk youth
CFA District 8 firefighters donated their time to help mentor vulnerable youths by hosting a day of hot fire training at CFA’s Bangholme College last week.
More than 20 students, aged 14-15, had the chance to try their hand at fighting fires and took part in realistic search and rescue drills last Thursday 21 August.
The day was part of two programs run by local schools in Melbourne’s south east in partnership with Dandenong CFA for vulnerable students at risk of becoming disengaged from school.
CFA Dandenong Senior Station Officer Darren Padgett said the training day helped at-risk teenagers learn new skills and build confidence.
“We are passionate about getting involved because we don’t want to see kids on the streets or fall through the cracks at school, and we want to try to keep young people out of trouble,” Mr Padgett said.
Fourteen schools in partnership with Dandenong CFA and Headspace run Operation New Start Casey. The 14 schools each contribute towards funding the program’s education facilitator.
Operation New Start South East is run by Dandenong High School and is located on site in one of the David Street facilities. Dandenong High funds the education facilitator and offers the program to other schools in the area.
“We do hot fire drills with the group, including using fire extinguishers, and show them how we use breathing apparatus. We even set up search and rescue drills,” he said.
“The kids get a lot out of it – I think the program starts to give them hope and shows them that they can do something really positive with their life too if they make the right choices.
“Some of the kids have come from quite challenging backgrounds and so this is all about helping them turn their life around and getting them back on the right track.”
Under the program schools can refer students, aged 14 to 16, who they believe are at risk of dropping out of school early or are in need of extra support.
“I’d like to thank the firefighters who all put their hand up to help out today, including Sam Webb, Leigh Schnerring, Daniel Lee, Chris Morrow and Alec Draffin. I’d also like to thank the many other CFA members who’ve come out here and helped out over the past 12 years.”
Hampton Park Secondary College principal David Finnerty – who is on the management committee of Operation New Start Casey and chairs the Dandenong Committee of Management – strongly supports the programs.
“After eight weeks on the program, many of the kids come back changed people,” Mr Finnerty said.
“I tell them it can be two steps forward and one step back but they come back to us re-engaged and believing in themselves again.
“These are essentially good kids who for all sorts of reasons didn’t get the break they deserve – this gives them that break and provides them with critical life skills that sees them through some of life’s challenges that confront them as they re-establish themselves in the community.
“They then come back to us more positive and ready to give school another go.”