York City schools to certify teens for public safety jobs in intensive 3-year program
For the first time, students interested in the public safety field will have all of the options at their fingertips in one comprehensive program.
The York City School District is launching a public safety and emergency services program for high school students next year that will encompass all public safety disciplines.
The program, offered at William Penn Senior High School and facilitated by York City School Police, includes fire, EMS, policing, corrections, emergency services, emergency management — the Federal Emergency Management Agency and York County 911 — probation, corrections and civil law.
And 45 students have already been accepted.
"We expected that we were gonna have to do a lot of inspiring," said school police Chief Michael Muldrow on getting students to sign up.
But the high school received 125-130 applicants when enrollment opened in May, he said.
Students will partner with employers from the industry, getting professional certifications through Harrisburg Area Community College and practical experience and exposure that will make them competitive with adult job-seekers.
"Those hiring bodies will know their names when they walk through the door," Muldrow said.
He said there are a lot of jobs to choose from in numerous fields and that teens might not realize all of their options.
"They may not know they could work for FEMA," he said, or understand how different public safety roles can affect justice in their communities.
Since most jobs in the field have similar core competencies, Muldrow said, students can learn how to be a strong overall candidate.
First of its kind: The vision of the program was always broad, he said.
HACC is already involved in similar programs statewide, but none cover as many disciplines. Other programs in the area are primarily focused on protective services — security and law enforcement, said York City School Police Officer Bryan Einsig.
Einsig, who will be the program's director, also said it was the first program of its kind to be connected with a government agency — in this case, York County 911.
York City school board member James Sawor, who had 11 years of experience at the 911 center, helped make the connection so students could receive training to become certified as dispatchers.
He said he hopes it will be an opportunity to help students and 911, which has been suffering from staff shortages. Students who have the training will be more prepared for a job than new hires coming in cold, he said.
Years in the making: Muldrow had the idea for the program four to five years ago, but when the district applied for a federal grant about two years ago, it was denied.
The administration had better luck at the state level with the support of state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City.
Einsig drafted the grant application and submitted it through the Office of Safe Schools, and Hill-Evans has "been a champion of the program ever since," Muldrow said.
She called district Superintendent Eric Holmes from Harrisburg and said, "They loved your idea," Muldrow said.
The grant, awarded this year, will cover Einsig's salary as he is pulled out of the regular circulation of officers to get the program up and running.
He was chosen as program director based on his previous experience designing an associate degree criminal justice program at York Technical Institute 15 years ago, after the 9/11 attacks.
Social focus: Another impetus for the program is to bring minority and urban communities into public safety roles, which are lacking representation from the people they serve, Muldrow said.
"From Harrisburg to Baltimore, Lancaster ... that’s what everybody’s looking to do," he said.
The alternative can cause misunderstandings on both sides when officers don't have an awareness of cultural norms or what to expect, he continued.
He hopes youths going through the program will begin to "change the landscape," with black, Hispanic, Asian, male and female students forming a diverse pool for years to come.
Within the group of 45 enrolled, Muldrow marveled at the diversity — not just in demographics but areas of interest, from a girl who wants to be a doctor when she graduates to a football star.
He also hopes the program will help take away the stigma against those in public safety roles and show "the person inside the uniform."
York City School Police officers have been able to build relationships with minority youths, but not all agencies in the county — or in the country — have that luxury or focus, he said.
The program "will allow us to take the heart of what we do and put that into young people" who will then be able to go out and share it with others, he said.
One way in which school police have built bridges with youth is through outreach initiatives such as SAFE camp, a three-week summer program that stands for safety, accountability, fitness and etiquette.
The public safety and emergency services program will combine all the best parts of those initiatives, incorporating character-building to make future leaders and change-agents, Muldrow said.
Some students going through the program will start early, in July, to be youth counselors for the camp.
How it works: The program will be a course offering next year for 10th-12th graders, serving as a social studies and gym credit, and evolve into an academy as it grows.
In the first year, students will attend their regular academic classes along with two program courses and also meet with their group in the morning, at lunchtime and at the end of the day.
The first year is classroom focused, the second is more hands-on and the third gives students the opportunity to narrow down a field of focus through internships, externships, working with agencies and volunteering.
Students starting after 10th grade will be advanced through the program in three levels.
Who's involved: Muldrow and Einsig have been amazed at the support from hiring bodies in the community as they continue discussions with those looking to get involved.
Cody Santiago, emergency manager at York City Fire & Rescue, will be directing both officers on fire service and emergency management.
In addition to HACC, Penn State York is in talks to provide students with training from leading experts in DNA testing.
The York City Health Bureau and WellSpan Health are planning to instruct students in peer-level training so they can share their knowledge in other districts.
"The truth is, kids would rather listen to other kids," Muldrow said.
Strong interest: Enrollment is still open for the program, which starts Aug. 20, and it's possible to have applicants from other districts as well, Muldrow said, noting that there was a lot of interest in the county that would have to be worked out.
"It's definitely taken off," he said. "It's going to be amazing."
Muldrow and Einsig are starting their 10th year at the district in July, and they are looking forward to serving the city's youth in a new capacity.
"I would not want to do anything else," Einsig said of giving back to students.