PITTSBURG — From safely taking someone out of a wrecked car to what goes on inside an EMS truck, local students now have an idea what it takes to be a first responder.

Through a program called Pittsburg High School Leadership Academy, students found out what happens when first responders go on call.

Pittsburg Community Schools educators PHS Assistant Principal Chris Garzone, Inclusion Resource Jill Stanley and PHS Social Science Teacher Gary Wolgamott helped create a summer academy after learning about a school in New York who had a similar successful program and results. USD250 received resources and modeled their program off of New York’s.

Students in the school district in New York were taught about service fields such as first responders, military, science, aviation and more, Garzone said. All of the curriculum is based on not only giving students hands-on experience, but also teaching the students soft-skills such as learning to be good leaders.

“It gives them a taste of being involved in the community,” Garzone said.

Wolgamott said, along with being good leaders the students must learn to follow a good leader by following directions and having an understanding of duty in a community.

The relationships built with students are also an important part of the program, Stanley said.

With the help of the City of Pittsburg, local Army recruiters and reserves, USD 250 began the academy last summer, starting with three students. Now they are up to seven and plan on growing the group each year. Students are recruited as incoming freshman and “senior” academy students are to find three new members as part of one of their “challenges” for the following summer.

The group meets for a total of 16 days, four hours a day which include two half hour sessions with drills, marching, facing movements and other military related activities with Army volunteers. Students who complete the program can receive a half credit elective in social studies.

Throughout the program, they have met with firefighters and put on their gear, climb into an Emergency Service truck, watch the fire department pry open doors of a simulated wreck scene and ride to the top a of fire engine ladder.

Along with the hands-on experience, they also were taught about their role in the community.

“We focus on citizenship, it comes with certain duties and responsibilities,” Wolgamott said.

These include learning the Bill of Rights and the constitution.

Incoming freshman Zach Leiker said her joined because he wanted to, “learn how to be a better leader” and thought it was a good opportunity to do just that.

“I learned you can serve the community in many different ways,” Zach said.

His classmate Homer O’Ferrell, also joined to learn about leadership. Homer said he was taught about his rights and freedoms and he plans to take part in the program all over again next summer.

This is the second year for Austin Garzone. Austin said something he is taking from the program is getting involved with the community.

“I learned have a good time, do community service and get involved with the community,” he said. Austin said he plans to come back next summer too.

For incoming freshman Timothy Weller, the experience helped him better understand what the people who serve the community do.

“I think it has given me a lot better understanding of our police and fire departments,” he said.

The group will graduate from the academy on Thursday, ending the summer program until next year.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.