COLLEGE STATION – You’re never too young or too old to pursue your dreams. That’s the lesson we can learn from two recent graduates of the TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy.
Allan Levine, 65, is one of the oldest graduates of the Academy, while Esme Petitjean, 18, is one of the youngest. They each had a dream of becoming a firefighter and didn’t let any obstacles stand in their way. They both graduated from the intensive, 12-week academy on June 21. (In photo, Esme Petitjean, left, and Allan Levine.)
“These academies are demanding physically and mentally, so they should feel proud to complete it,” said Chief Donny Boggs, Training Director of the Firefighter Recruit Academy Program. Among the requirements they each had to complete was to run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes.
Esme says she always looked up to her Dad, who is a volunteer firefighter in Monroe, Wisc. She knew from an early age that she wanted to be a firefighter, and after researching several firefighter academies, she said the TEEX academy stood out. So, after graduating from high school in January, she traveled to Texas — her first trip to the state — to enroll in the three-month program. She had spent time preparing for the rigors of the hands-on, physically challenging program.
“I had really good trainers at my local gym, and I focused on the goals I needed to meet for this class,” Esme said. “I was also on a rock climbing team, and that helped with the mental portion, and not giving up when things get tough.”
Allan has spent his career as an electrician, but experiences shared by a friend who was a Lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York City piqued his interest in firefighting. As an electrician, he has installed thousands of fire alarms, most recently on a 16-story building in Georgia. But after reading about the TEEX Academy on the internet, he traveled from Canton, Ga., to Texas a couple of years ago to do some personal research, and spoke with TEEXan Cary Roccaforte about the program.
When his building project was finished in 2017, he thought, “Why not apply?” But at the same time, he recalls asking himself: “Do you have the nerve to do it?” His only physical training at the time, he said, was walking up and down the stairs on the 16-story building project, so he was “not really in shape” when he arrived. The morning runs were difficult initially, he recalls.
But it’s clear Allan enjoys challenges. “I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve done fund-raisers that were athletic events. I rode a bicycle across America. But this was more difficult than other things I have done.”
Allan and Esme both said the other members of their engine team in the academy were supportive overall, and the instructors and staff were positive and supportive as well.
“They never questioned whether we could do it, but they also never lied and said this is a piece of cake,” Allan says. “This is a difficult program and a tough place.”
“It was challenging,” Esme agreed, “but it was a good class. The Instructors and staff were supportive. They never said it would be easy. But if you struggled, they would work with you to help you do better.”
“Mr. Levine has been a real inspiration,” Chief Boggs said. “It goes to show age is just a number in your head. He has inspired the younger people in the class not to quit, and he has inspired the instructors too. He might have struggled some, but he didn’t quit. The instructors did not cut him any slack, and he made it through on his merit. And Ms. Petitjean is a mature young woman at 18. She always did what she needed to do. She kept her nose to the grindstone and made it through a demanding program. They both have reason to be proud of their accomplishments.”
About the 156th TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy
Forty-four new firefighters from Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho, Georgia, New Hampshire, California and Canada graduated from the 156th TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy on June 21. The 12-week, hands-on, entry-level firefighter training program was held at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX. The Academy prepares entry-level firefighters
to earn the Texas Commission on Fire Protection certifications for Firefighter
I, Firefighter II, Hazardous Materials Awareness and HazMat Operations, as well
as ProBoard Firefighter I, Firefighter II and HazMat Awareness and HazMat
Operations. The program is also eligible for college credit through the Fire
Science Technology degree program at Blinn College. TEEX has trained more than 5,000 certifiable firefighters since
1971, and has graduates working across Texas, the United States and the world.