Dallas ISD unveils groundbreaking Firefighter Academy at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation

Story by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by Dallas ISD.

Dallas ISD is introducing a first-of-its-kind opportunity for students at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation, where students can simultaneously earn a high school degree and industry-recognized certifications to become a firefighter.

Incoming freshmen at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation can now sign up for the district’s first-ever Firefighter Academy, which will begin in the 2024-2025 school year.

Students who participate in the four-year Firefighter Academy will undergo rigorous coursework with practical, hands-on training to prepare them for a career in fire service. They will earn 32 dual credit hours, including fire science and emergency medical services (EMS) courses. To complete the program, students will need to accrue experiential hours.

Dallas ISD states, “Students will learn from industry experts, work alongside local fire departments, and learn what it means to become a public servant.”

Dallas ISD’s deputy chief of college readiness, Cheryl Nevels, believes Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Firefighter Academy is a “game-changer” for students, introducing them to firefighting and emergency service career fields.

“This is an opportunity for us to serve a need within the city and ensure that we’re preparing students for a career that gives them a good salary,” Cheryl says.

Dallas ISD takes a comprehensive approach to career preparation for high school students by providing them with career and college fairs and multiple opportunities for coursework and practical experiences.

As part of her job, Cheryl oversees various workforce and career preparation programs at Dallas ISD, including early college programs. These programs involve partnerships between high schools, Dallas College, and various career industries, allowing students to earn college credit hours, certifications, and even an associate’s degree. Additionally, the career preparation programs help students build connections that could lead to future jobs once they graduate high school.

Cheryl believes Dallas ISD programs like the Firefighter Academy are essential for introducing students to various career paths and giving them exposure to the workforce early on.

“I think it’s important because some students can’t see themselves in different jobs or careers because they’re never really exposed to them,” Cheryl says. “It sets our students up for success. It really is a game changer when you have all those entities working together in the students’ best interest, first and foremost.”

Field hours are built into the coursework for the Firefighter Academy. For example, if a student is taking an EMT course through the academy, they can complete field hours at a hospital or clinic.

“Because those hours are built in, it’s like a built-in internship experience for the student,” Cheryl says. “We have to make sure that we’re not just focused on what they’re getting in the classroom but also how we can bring in those valuable skills and experiences outside the classroom.”

School officials say the Firefighter Academy at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation aligns with the school’s values of safety, teamwork, and community engagement.

District leaders held an event at the beginning of November called Discover Dallas ISD. At the event, students and parents explored various programs Dallas ISD offers, including the Firefighter Academy. Staff was on hand to answer any questions parents and students had about the program.

“At the root or core of the work that we do, it’s because we want to make sure we give every child every chance, every day, to be successful,” Cheryl says. “This is a way to empower our students to have an impact on communities and to have an impact on their futures. And so I’m excited about the opportunities of this program as the first one within Dallas ISD.”

Students who will be freshmen at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School of Innovation during the 2024-2025 school year and who are interested in the Firefighter Academy are encouraged to apply between now and January 31. Interested students must meet a GPA requirement.

Click here to learn more about the Firefighter Academy.