Heroes of the Future?

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Eighth-grader Ryan Fogg tries on SWAT gear at Ensign Intermediate’s “Action Heroes Day.” — All photos by Sara Hall

Police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance lined the blacktop behind the gym at Ensign Intermediate School on Wednesday.

Uniformed cops walked along the wall, two German Shepherd police dogs barked loudly and a couple of kids were in the backseat of a cruiser while another ran up and down the basketball court wearing a police vest, gas mask and helmet.

All for education’s sake, of course.

The emergency personnel and all of their equipment were there participating in the school’s Action Heroes Day, part of the “Focus on Your Future” career week.

Not long after the event got started the paramedics jumped in the ambulance, turned on the siren and rushed out to a call. All a part of the job, as students saw firsthand.

“Today was all about exposing the kids to 911 personnel,” said one of the event organizers, Ensign counselor, Laurie Rybaczyk. She has even gone through the Newport Beach police academy and the fire department CERT training.

Students met and talked with law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency personnel in the community. Fred Sendra, who represented the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, was also on hand.

The emergency professionals displayed their technology and vehicle equipment and answered any questions the kids had. Students were even allowed to put on the police vest with a gas mask and helmet.

(Left to right) Jasmine Gomez, Joselyn Tapia and Alejandra Tapia check out the fire unit.

“It was very interesting,” Joselyn Tapia said.

Eighth graders Jasmine Gomez and Joselyn Tapia, and seventh grader Alejandra Tapia, said they learned a lot at the event.

Gomez said she was really interested in the fire department since her mother is training to be a emergency professional.

“I wanted to learn about what she is learning about and what she’s going to be doing,” she said.

They all agreed that they learned how to stay motivated and work hard to achieve their dreams.

Newport Beach Master Police Officer and School Resource Officer, Vladimir Anderson, said the kids are pretty excited to see police equipment up close and ask questions.

“They see a lot of stuff on TV… or see us drive by,” Anderson said, but “seeing us out here, firsthand, it’s perfect.”

They learn a lot more abut the police department by seeing them in this kind of environment, he said. They ask abut police work and tactics and all the equipment, Anderson said, but they love to touch everything and try on the vest and get in the police vehicles.

Kids can also learn more and get great experience through the NBPD Teen Academy or the Police Explorers, Anderson said. Visit www.nbpd.org for more information.

This is the fifth year Ensign has done the “Focus on Your Future Week,” Rybaczyk said.

Monday was “My First Job” Day, Rybaczyk said. A representative from Youth Employment Services spoke about the qualifications and requirements needed for today’s workforce. Students learned how to fill out applications, what to wear to interviews, how to act professionally. School staff also talked about their first jobs.

A video was also shown of a former Ensign seventh grade class that created their own chamber of commerce, even going so far as to create their own business cards, through the Real Game California program. The class was also invited to a networking breakfast with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

On Tuesday the school held the Vital Link Career Expo, which included exhibits for careers in medical/biomedical, environmental design, and transportation/aerospace engineering. Vital Link Orange County provided hands-on, career exploration experiences at each exhibit for the students.

Anika Sevier and Kaylinn Muran get a perp’s-eye-view of a police car.

“I think for junior high kids experiential education is great for career (pathway ideas), hands-on exhibits are great for this generation,” said Rybaczyk, who calls this age group the “M&M,” or MultiMedia, generation. “You need to keep them engaged.”

Career Technology Education, or Career Pathways Day, was on Thursday. Representatives from Orange Coast College came and talked about their associate degree programs, how to prepare for college and how to transfer to a four-year university. A representative from Back Bay Alternative High School was also on hand with an Energy Audit Exhibit. Newport Harbor High School students also came and talked about their experiences in applying for college.

Planned for Friday is the Kuder Career Assessment Test, where everything culminates and the students indicate their top three career pathways. It is also college sweater and t-shirt day so students and staff can show off their college pride, Rybaczyk said.

“I’m really excited that we’re starting early, in junior high now, and exposing kids to different career pathways,“ Rybaczyk said. “So when they make the transition to high school they know what’s available and get job experience early by volunteering and working part-time jobs.”

Part of the week is informing kids that, in addition to getting into a traditional four-year university for a specific degree, there are many other options and programs out there, Rybaczyk said. So the week focused more on Career and Technology Education programs, she said

“We lay the foundation here, in junior high school, so when they get to high school they (already have) a handle on their interests and skill level, in terms of career possibilities,” Rybaczyk said. “This is a whole new generation and they need to know ahead of time what’s coming down the pike and what’s available.”

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