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New Fire Academy at Graham High School

GRAHAM, N.C. -- Eighteen Graham High School students are taking their studies to a new level by climbing ladders.

"Wish I would have had something like this when I was going through high school," Graham High School Fire Academy Chief Joel Davis said. "It would have saved me several years of figuring what I wanted to do."

The students from Eastern Alamance, Graham and Southern Alamance high schools are a part of the new Fire Academy at Graham High School. The goal of the program is to train students so they can become the next generation of Piedmont firefighters.

"Very excited. It is a new door to open," high school student Ryan Stout said.

The Haw River Fire Department helped out with Wednesday's lesson. Students took turns practicing how to control the heavy and powerful water hose and climbing the ladders with equipment. Davis says the new program will help fill the need for firefighters at volunteer and full-time stations.

"They are looking for young, fresh, easy-to-train people they can mold into their organization," Davis said.

The only class the high school students are missing is the live fire training. They will get that training when they enroll at a community college. In some cases, Davis says a fire department might pay for classes that will help a new recruit's career.

But according to Fire Academy student Justin Brown, the most important lesson is learning how to work as a team.

"Everyone has everyone's back," Brown said. "It doesn't matter if you are a Southern Alamance student, Graham or Eastern Alamance, we all have to work together to help everybody out."

Stout agrees.

"The fire service has a lot of teamwork. If you don't have a team, you don't have anything," Stout said.

The Alamance-Burlington School System is looking to expand its municipal service academy to other programs like EMS and public safety.