PITTSBURGH—When he earned an associate’s degree from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in December, Edward Bloomer became just the second person to graduate through the college’s FireVEST program. And the North Side resident is determined not to be the last.
Bloomer said he has promoted the FireVEST program, which provides full scholarships to new and existing volunteer firefighters in Allegheny County, among his fellow members at Seville Volunteer Fire Department in Ross. One of the junior members will graduate from high school this spring. Bloomer said the “full” aspect of the scholarship—it covers tuition, fees and books—took a few minutes to sink in.
“Yeah, it’s real,” he recalled telling him. “They just helped me!”
A partnership between CCAC and Allegheny County, the FireVEST program provides scholarships to residents of Allegheny County who are either current volunteers or who join a volunteer fire department in Allegheny County.
“The FireVEST program is an investment in our communities that encourages community service, provides educational opportunity and helps sustain local volunteer fire companies as an integral and vital part of public safety,” said Charles Blocksidge, PhD, executive director of the CCAC–Allegheny County Workforce Alliance.
Bloomer has been a member of Seville VFD for 25 years, and he has been a paramedic with the department for most of that time. He said he plans to build on his CCAC degree in General Studies, transferring to Drexel University or the University of Pittsburgh for a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medicine.
While he said that membership at his department has remained relatively steady during his tenure, many of the other departments across Allegheny County are struggling with declining enrollment. Bloomer said that people often don’t realize that there are many roles in a fire department, not just those who rush into burning buildings.
“We have one member with a commercial driver’s license who drives the truck and runs the water supply,” Bloomer said. “That frees up another firefighter.” Others can manage the business and public relations side of a department or serve as mechanics. “There’s a place for almost anyone,” he said.
Applicants must apply and be accepted to CCAC; file for federal and state financial aid; and complete the financial aid process on time and in its entirety. Applications for the fall 2010 term must be postmarked by May 15. They are available on CCAC’s web site at www.ccac.edu (search keyword “FireVEST”) or by contacting the Allegheny County Fire Academy at 412-931-3158, ext. 5.
If awarded a scholarship, the recipient must meet the following obligations:
The FireVEST Advisory Board will review all applications and other forms to assess scholarship eligibility and to determine scholarship recipients. Being accepted into membership of the sponsoring agency (volunteer fire company) and/or being accepted for enrollment at CCAC does not guarantee the student will be awarded a scholarship under the FireVEST program, nor does it guarantee acceptance into limited-enrollment CCAC programs. Instead, the recruitment needs of the sponsoring agencies are the first priority when selecting scholarship recipients.
“The FireVEST program provides an important incentive to attract and retain members at the county’s 200 volunteer fire departments,” said Al Wickline, administrator of the Allegheny County Fire Academy. “These skilled individuals will strengthen the fire departments which will benefit the residents of the County by providing fire, EMS, rescue and Haz-Mat services for the today and into the future.”
Bloomer said that the junior member he spoke with has applied for the program, and several other members of his department are seriously considering it. He hopes more will do the same. “This is a great opportunity to serve the community and get your education paid for,” he said. “Why not?”
For additional information on the FireVEST program, contact the Allegheny County Fire Academy at 412-931-3158 ext. 5 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Community College of Allegheny County is the largest institution of postsecondary higher education in Pennsylvania. The college serves 31,000 credit students through 170 degree and certificate programs and offers thousands of lifelong learning non-credit and workforce development courses to 33,000 students annually. Incorporating a learning-centered environment committed to the future of the region, CCAC continues to expand its reach through innovative programming and accessible instruction offered via convenient day, evening, weekend and online courses. With four campuses and six centers serving Allegheny County and surrounding communities, CCAC endeavors to fulfill its mission to provide affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse and supportive learning environment that prepares the region’s residents for academic, professional and personal success in our changing global society.