Junior firefighter Elaina Duke volunteers at two Montgomery County fire stations, Upper Gwynedd Fire Department and Telford Fire Company. Elaina joined Telford Fire Company after attending its summer cadet program, a weeklong firefighter experience for youth ages 14 to 17.
“By the first day I completely fell in love with firefighting and I knew I wanted to volunteer ever since,” said Elaina.
As a current student studying Protective Services at North Montgomery County Technical School, she joined Upper Gwynedd Fire Department through a program called Pennsylvania Youth Apprenticeship Program (PYPA). This program allows students to gain hands-on experience with an internship in the field they choose.
“As part of my internship I go to Upper Gwynedd Fire Department Mondays and Tuesdays, and go to North Montco Technical School the other three days,” said Elaina. “I always make sure school comes first but my teachers find different ways to connect lesson plans with firefighting.”
Elaina and other junior firefighters receive skills that will carry them throughout life. Although juniors cannot fight fires inside buildings, they can assist with ground work such as running hoses and grabbing tools for firefighters.
“As a volunteer firefighter I learn many things, but the main skill I’ve learned is communication,” said Elaina. “Good communication skills are key on the ground and in the truck, especially in an emergency situation, to get the job done.”
Not only do students receive hands-on education through volunteering, it boosts their resumes for college applications or future jobs, and helps instill a sense of pride in a younger generation. It’s an opportunity for them to give back to the community.
“I love being able to help people on potentially their worst day. It’s important to take care of our neighbors,” said Elaina. “I enjoy living life knowing I’m doing a job that most people aren’t.” To volunteer fill out an inquiry form under “Volunteer/Contact Us”