Janessa Martinez said she first thought about becoming an emergency medical technician while hearing sirens near her former home in Texas and getting to explore the inside of an ambulance at a mall.
Friday, Owens Community College gave high school students the ultimate playground: access to the 200-acre Center for Emergency Preparedness, complete with demonstrations and lots and lots of ambulances, fire trucks, and other safety equipment to see up close.
It was Owens' first career day for high school students interested in public safety and emergency preparedness.
"I've learned a lot today exploring the different stations," exclaimed Janessa, a senior from Liberty Center. She is enrolled in the fire and rescue program at Four County Career Center in Archbold.
Four County instructor Tonya Fisher said her students can graduate from high school with certification as firefighters and EMTs, but she urges them to obtain as much education as possible.
"They should have a college education to back up that training and to help them get a better job," Ms. Fisher said.
Hayden Stamm, a junior at Four County from Archbold, said he was thinking of attending Columbus State Community College but he was impressed with what Owens has to offer.
"From what I've seen it's really cool, especially the tower," he said.
Nearly 200 students from as far away as Cleveland got a taste of firefighting techniques in Owens' five-story, computer-controlled fire training tower, got to watch the Northwest Ohio Bomb Squad detonate an explosive device, see law enforcement instructors demonstrate defensive combat moves, and watch Dante, a trained German shepherd, sniff out drugs hidden in a Ford Explorer.
"Pretend this is a brand-new, 2011 Cadillac Escalade and someone has refused to allow me to search it," Fulton County sheriff's Deputy John Trejo told the students.
After Dante circled the vehicle with his extrasensory nose in gear, the deputy let him loose inside, where he ripped through the front seat to the back, where he found the hidden contraband.
"They're a great tool," Deputy Trejo said of police dogs. "They don't make up for what an officer has to do on the road, but they're a big help."
At its $20.5 million Center for Emergency Preparedness, Owens offers associate degree programs in fields ranging from criminal justice technology to corrections and fire science technology.
Heather Miller of Old Fort and Larhyn Graham of Upper Sandusky were among 29 juniors and seniors from Sentinel Career Center in Tiffin who visited Owens wearing black uniforms from Sentinel's public safety program.
"It's interesting. It's all hands on," Larhyn said of the visit. "I like being involved."
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