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Training first responders

Fire - Police news conference

Columbus State President David T. Harrison announces the partnership at a press conference Aug. 19. Flanking him are (from left) Fire Chief Gregory Paxton, Councilmember Michelle Mills, Columbus State student and new firefighter Dylan Ulry and Police Chief Kim Jacobs.

When Columbus State Community College begins its Fall Semester this week, cadets in the current Columbus Division of Fire Academy will be among the registered students at the college. The city and college announced Aug. 19 they have formed a partnership in a new program that will put all incoming firefighters and police officers on a direct path toward an associate degree.

The academic program is designed with three blocks of courses involving a combination of state certification courses and academic courses.

Block One consists of courses taught at the fire and police academies. Cadets take those courses as dual students at Columbus State and earn academic credits for each course. Block Two consists of career-related courses at Columbus State required for incoming firefighters, but optional for incoming police officers. Block Three is optional for both police and fire. It focuses on general education academic courses.

Since firefighters are required to finish the first two blocks, they will be within easy reach of an associate degree upon completing the second block.

"This program clearly allows all future firefighters to be within arm's reach of an academic degree, increasing opportunities to advance their careers," says Chief Gregory Paxton, Columbus Division of Fire.

"Columbus firefighters and police officers are dedicated public servants who risk their lives to keep our neighborhoods safe and strong," says Councilmember Michelle Mills, chair of Columbus City Council's Public Safety & Judiciary Committee. "This partnership supports our safety forces with resources that will help them serve and protect our community."

"We are especially proud of Columbus State's long history of helping to prepare more than 2,300 first responders in this community," says David Harrison, president of Columbus State. "Joining with the city's emergency divisions is a natural partnership that helps Columbus firefighters and police officers enhance their skills, earn their degrees, and build a stronger career path."

The City of Columbus is paying tuition for firefighters and police. In addition, firefighters and police officers already working for the city have the option to take the courses, which would allow them to earn an associate degree.

Columbus City Council is expected to consider the contracts with the college in September.

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