Through the generosity of the College of Natural Resources Terry Student Assistance and Enrichment Fund, I was able to continue my volunteer firefighter training at the Cranbury NJ Fire Department, where I have served my hometown since 2016. I earned Firefighter 1 certification from the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety and graduated from the Somerset Emergency Services Training Academy after 160+ hours of training and passing written tests. The Enrichment Fund allowed me to travel to the fire department’s annual meeting and monthly drills where I practiced water and ice rescue, and extradition training using the “jaws of life”, a hydraulic rescue tool used to extricate car crash victims. I was happy to train with my team from the fire department. We have developed a strong camaraderie. It is great to see what we can accomplish as a trained team, and to know that when we get an emergency call, we trust each other with our lives.

Volunteering as a firefighter supports civic service and allows me to give back to the community. I am responsible for protecting lives and property, responding to fire and EMS calls, promoting fire safety, and participating in parades, community activities, and solemn rites for fallen firefighters and military heroes. When a fire department responds to a call, it may be the worst day in someone’s life. Aiding during traumatic experience like a fire or accident focuses my priorities on what is truly important.

Serving as a firefighter has complemented my experience as a CNR student because my leadership skills are literally forged in fire. I have become an excellent problem solver, innovative thinker, effective communicator, and ready for anything 24/7. These skills will be important for my future career in business administration and parks, recreation and tourism management. It aligns closely with CNR’s strategic goals because I gained technical expertise and hands-on experience. It has inspired me to “think and do” in an impactful way so that my career and my life are defined by integrity, responsibility, and a commitment to a greater good. I have learned valuable lessons about resource sustainability, local government financial management and accountability, budgeting and planning, and how to advocate for community needs. The safety and well-being of a community is integral to using and managing natural resources and has a direct impact on social and ecological sustainability.

I am truly grateful to the CNR Terry Student Assistance and Enrichment Fund for enabling me to pursue this experience.