Fire Academy students at Hillsborough Community College students looking to get a break on book expenses have the 2013 Winthrop Arts Festival to thank, with proceeds from the event earmarked to help with their expenses.
A check for $2,000 was presented to Carlos Soto, president of the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College, who received the funds on behalf of the college's fire academy.
Also on hand was Hillsborough County Fire Rescure spokesperson Ronnie Rivera, who said the money earmarked for book scholarships will help upcoming firefighters with much-needed funds to complete their education.
"I wish I had this program wen I went to school," he said. "I had to work full time to go to school."
Many students today are in a similar situation, he added. And with him they share a childhood dream to fight fires.
"I always wanted to do it," Rivera said. "It was one of my dream goals as a kid."
Such dream-seekers are in demand, with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue actively seeking to recruit firefighters.
"We just hired about 160 firefighters in the past four to five months," Rivera said. The need for paid firefighters grew when Hillsborough County Fire Rescue took over the remaining six volunteer fire stations left.
"Within the next two to three years a lot of people will be retiring and we'll need more than 150 new firefighters," he added.
While the county will have all paid firefighters, there is a Reserve Responders program open to people age 18 and over. The program is for people who love firefighting, who pass a background check, and who want to engage in training and wear a uniform.
"If it's something they would like to do with the rest of their lives we'll help them find the resources to go to school," Rivera said. Through the program, "they're part of the system and we have an investment in them."
At the Beaux Arts Gallery at Winthrop on April 4, Winthrop Town Artist Bryant Martinez presented a $2,000 check to aid with book expenses for fire academy students.
"There's a lot of kids out there who want to be firefighters who don't have the means to meat all their expenses," he said. "This will bring some help."
Related 2013 Winthrop Arts Festival Covearge
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- Extra Medium Crafts On-Site T-Shirts at Local Events
- What To See at the Winthrop Arts Festival