Students Learn Skills to Create Safer, Stronger Communities

It’s not every day that a high school student gets to ride along on a police call or sit alongside a 9-1-1 phone operator to learn — hands-on — what it means to serve and protect a community. Thanks to Silverton High School teacher Kirsten Barnes, EdD, students in grades 9 through 12 are exploring careers in protective services and leaving high school with critical job skills and college credits. Some students are even graduating with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and Wildland Fire Fighting certifications.

Barnes is a Social Science Instructor at SHS who also serves as Protective Services Instructor and Red Cross Club Advisor. A long-time Red Cross volunteer herself, she is passionate about community service and growing the next generation of young adults skilled in emergency prevention and response. That’s why she recently partnered with the local police and fire departments to offer a Protective Services Program, the high school’s newest Career and Technical Education (CTE) option.

“There are a lot of jobs in the world that we don’t think about in our everyday classroom experience,” said Barnes. “Protectives Services offers a window into the occupations that serve and protect us every day. Some of our senior students will complete their Wildland Fire certification this spring and will be on the fire line this summer.”

According to Barnes, the program would not be possible without the support and partnership of local protective service agencies including fire, law enforcement, EMT, homeland security and humanitarian organizations.

“The goal of the class is to introduce students to occupations in Protective Services and provide opportunities to gain a greater understanding though hands-on learning.  Students can earn college credit through Chemeketa Community College and complete certificates through FEMA in their high school classes which gives them a jump start.  Many of these occupations have two-year programs that lead to amazing jobs that serve our communities,” said Barnes.

Barnes explained that the program’s focus is on preparing students for high wage/high demand jobs in the Mid-Valley (Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties) as well as the State of Oregon.

“It gives me great insight into different lines of work in emergency services and all of the directions it can take you,” said SHS senior Nathanial Edmonds who is interested in forensic and arson science as well as a career in law enforcement.

SHS senior Jasmine Pacheco is interested in exploring a career as a forest fire fighter.

“It’s so interesting to learn about it. I really fell in love,” said Pacheco.

Protective service occupations protect the public against danger, fight fires, provide emergency response, enforce safety rules and regulations, conduct criminal investigations, provide private detective work, and much more.

“All of our students are gaining a greater understanding of public safety and no matter what occupation they pursue, they are better prepared to process, react, and respond to emergency situations,” said Barnes.