Dripping wet and smiling after navigating five to 10 miles of Verde River rapids near Camp Verde March 18, this year’s Verde River Runoff racers were helped out of the water by a group of teenage volunteers.
It’s the third year in a row that Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education’s Fire Science students have participated in the River Runoff. The group, comprised of four Mingus Union High School students, three Camp Verde High School students and two Sedona Red Rock High School students, are all working toward 15 college credit hours and industry certification through VACTE.
“It’s important for the kids to understand that community service goes hand in hand with this career,” VACTE Fire Science Instructor Steve Darby said, adding that over 30 students from the program have been employed with fire agencies — six in the last year alone at Peoria Fire Department, Verde Valley Fire District and Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority.
“Our students are discovering that there’s a certain satisfaction in being involved with community events and really seemed to enjoy this role,” Darby said. “Being a retired city of Mesa firefighter, I know how rewarding a career firefighting is. My motivation is to teach these young men and women the skills necessary to successfully enter this field and realize the satisfaction of a career in public service.”
“It’s great to see the VACTE students giving back to their community,” VACTE Superintendent Bob Weir said. “Community service is a key element to a student’s well-rounded education. Mr. Darby does a great job of instilling this into the fire science students.”
According to Darby, Jake Cecil of CCFMA got the students involved in the River Runoff. Cecil coordinates safety efforts during the event and manages first aid support, allowing students insight into how emergency situations are managed during community events. Outside the River Runoff, Cecil works with the fire science students, offering each year’s class cliff rappelling instruction.
The volunteerism doesn’t stop in Camp Verde, however: The students make an effort to be represented in each of their communities, giving support to the Sedona-Verde Valley Firefighter Charities at its Bike Rodeo event and assisting MUHS during its annual track meet.
“[The program] is something we feel strongly about, and we get tremendous satisfaction from seeing these kids go on to have great careers serving our communities and being productive members of our society,” Darby said.
For more information on VACTE’s fire science certification program — which Darby said is 100 percent supported by Yavapai College — visit vacte.com/central-campus-programs.html or call 634-7151.
VACTE is a public school Joint Technical Education District, allowing high school-age students the opportunity to receive career technical education.