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Learning to Save the Day

Fire and Rescue Graduates 23 from its High School Fire Science Program

Churchill students Caitlin Magraw and Holly Miller might not fit everybody’s idea of a firefighter, but they should. There were 15 women among the 23 students graduating from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire Science program last week. All four of the program’s Churchill and Wootton students — Magraw, Miller and Wootton seniors Cassie Leonard and Julianne Mills — were female. Magraw and Mills were each recognized as the top students in their respective programs.

Fire and Rescue honored the 23 students who completed its High School Fire Science Program in a graduation ceremony at the Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville on May 27. Fourteen of the students completed an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course, the other nine graduated from an Essentials of Firefighting course.

See www.mcfrs.org and click “MCFRS High School Cadet Program” for information, requirements and an application. http://www.mcfrs.org

CASSIE LEONARD, WOOTTON SENIOR

“I’ll never forget the first time I was in the back of an ambulance,” said Leonard about the first time she joined a rescue response. “You’re scared, but you’re on autopilot.”

Leonard feels lucky she was accepted in the Fire and Rescue program. “I found out about it late and signed up late, but somehow still got in,” she said. She recommends it to high-school underclassmen “Do it. It’s great,” she said. “Instead of wasting senior year, you’re doing something, yet you only have to take two classes senior year. … I just feel exceptionally good about the fact that I made it through.”

Leonard will attend Penn State University, and is leaning toward pre-med studies.

JULIANNE MILLS, WOOTTON SENIOR

Mills was selected for the Richard B. Thompson award among her 14 classmates in her EMT program as the top academic student of her cadet class.

Mills first became interested in the fire science program when her brother Justin Mills was in it. Justin is now serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. “I like being there to help people when they’re in their hour of need,” Julianne Mills said. “The worst part of their life, I’ll be there for them.”

She remembers what it’s like to be helped. Formerly a cheerleader and pom at Wootton, Mills fell during a cheerleading routine at a Wootton football game two years ago. She was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital. “That’s why I want to be a state trooper,” she said. Mills will attend University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) next year, and will major in Emergency Health Services.

CAITLIN MAGRAW, CHURCHILL SENIOR

Magraw was selected for the Chief A. Marvin Gibbons award as the top academic student in her nine-member Essentials of Firefighting cadet class. “I’m said it’s over, but I’m really happy that I won, because I worked really hard,” she said. “You have to take about seven tests… and if you mess up on one, you’ll ruin your chances.”

She recommends the Fire and Rescue program for high-schoolers who are willing to put in the work they need. “There’s just so much to do. You can’t do a half-assed job,” she said. “It’s a professional setting, not a high-school setting.”

“Since I’m small, it’s great to be able to say I’m a firefighter,” said Magraw, who said some people were skeptical about her chances. “You can tell by the looks on their faces… especially as a female.”

Magraw will attend University of Colorado-Boulder, and wants to volunteer at a firehouse in Boulder.

HOLLY MILLER, CHURCHILL JUNIOR

A majority of the Fire and Rescue cadets were high-school seniors, but Miller completed the program in her junior year. The most memorable part of the program for Miller was “some of the tough procedures we did, like cutting up cars and car fires,” she said. “It’s a great program. You learn a lot, and it gives you a lot of discipline in your life.”

The Essentials of Firefighting program Miller and Magraw took stressed academics as well as hands-on training. “There’s a lot of classroom involved, and we had written tests just as much as practical tests,” Miller said. “We had to do a five-to-ten-page research paper.”

Miller plans to do an internship at the Fire and Rescue Training Academy in Rockville for her senior year, then hopes to enroll in University of Maryland’s Fire Sciences program.