Friday, the first graduates from a unique program at Blackwell Job Corps Center near Laona get their diplomas.
The graduation ceremony is for 16 Job corps students who have completed structural firefighting certification and have jobs with local fire departments.
The program was in cooperation with Nicolet College. Blackwell Center Director Richard Lassiter says the graduation is a first of its type...
".....what makes this so significant is this is the very first class of structure firefighters ever in Job Corps history. So we're really excited that that occurs here at Blackwell, but I also see a huge door for other Job Corps centers to follow us...."
Lassiter says the graduates have volunteer commitments to fire departments across Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. He says feedback from the local community led to the program. While Blackwell has a successful wildfire fighting class as a support team for the parent U.S. Forest Service wildfire fighting efforts, this program focuses on structure fires more common to local fire departments.
Tanner Dobizl is one of the students who will graduate Friday. He says the course gives intense instruction...
"....we do a lot of hands on training, a lot of book work, live burns, especially practicing for the practical exams. We'll do a lot of physical training, too..."
Lassiter says Blackwell worked with Nicolet College so students could get certified and get introduced to area fire departments. All 16 graduates have commitments from fire departments to be paid-on-call firefighters. Blackwell serves 160 students living and training on the campus in the town of Blackwell and is associated with Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.