A group of 40 schoolchildren gathered Tuesday at the Newark Fire Academy on Orange Street for the start of the second annual Public Safety Academy, during which the 10- to 14-year-old participants will learn about the work done by the city’s police and fire departments as well as the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The nominal purpose of the three weeks of sessions is to expose city youth to careers in public safety. But the academy is also meant to encourage kids to lead productive lives generally, no matter what they ultimately choose to do professionally, speakers said yesterday.
“We understand you’re important to us. We need to make an investment in you,” Fire Director Fateen Ziyad told the kids as they sat in a hangar-like building at the fire academy. “This academy is that investment.”
“The fact that you’ve made a decision, along with your parents and guardians, to come here convinces me you’re going to be among our future leaders, our future firefighters, our future police officers,” said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.
The planned activities, as the kids themselves might say, sound pretty cool.
At the prosecutor’s office, they’ll learn about what it takes to be a detective, the investigation of major crimes and will also meet the officers of the Essex County Sheriff’s K-9 unit. At the police department, the youngsters will try their hands on the firearms and driving simulators. Firefighters will supervise as the youth battle a small, simulated blaze. They’ll also be instructed in the organization and history of each of the agencies.
“We’re going to put them in the driving simulator, which puts you in a police car, and they’ll have to respond to an emergency situation without crashing the vehicle, so they can experience what it’s like,” said Capt. Derek Glenn of the NPD.
As well, the experts will teach their charges how to keep themselves safe, through instruction in fire escape plans, on how to deal with cyber-bullying, and through the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program.
Ultimately, said Mayor Cory Booker, the primary aim of the academy is to illustrate for children the sense of fulfillment that can be achieved through a job dedicated to protecting the public. At first asking the kids to name their favorite fictional superhero, Booker then explained what actual heroism looks like.
“The real heroes in this world are the ones who every single day get up and serve others....Heroism is about every day being there when people need you, making a sacrifice. Except they don’t see it as a sacrifice. They love their jobs.”
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