“I like to think of the first responders as real life superheroes,” said New Haven Intermediate School sixth grader Allison Albright.
Every first Friday of the month during the academic year, these “superheroes” come out in force at East Allen County Schools. They eat for free as they join students and staff for lunch and a little conversation. The program is called First Responder Friday. “Doing stuff like this we get to get out in the community,” said Amanda Jones, a paramedic. “A lot of these kids I saw last year during First Responder Friday.”
“I’ve been thinking about being a medic to help people that go into fires so I can take care of them,” said 11-year old Delilah Aker who talked with Jones about being a paramedic.
But more that getting students thinking about careers as a first responder, the sessions are intended to build positive relationships and help children understand the rolls of law enforcement officers and first responders. “I think they’re kind of scared of fire, police, ems, not sure what we do,” said Jones. “They asked what’s your favorite thing about your job? I said people call us on their worst day and if there is just a little bit I can do to make that day better that makes my job worth it.”
To help ease any apprehension a K9 officer is also part of the lunch time program, not eating with the students but providing some soothing interaction. “A lot of them want to know what we do. Why we do certain things, just kind of who we are,” said New Haven Police Chief Jeff McCracken. “A lot of times they don’t get the personal connections. So it’s nice to be able to sit down with a group of kids eating lunch so they get to know a little about you and you learn a little bit about them.”
“It’s fun to be able to learn about what people do and how helpful they are to our community and how they affect our lives in this community,” said Albright.
The 2019-2020 academic year marks the second year for First Responder Friday. The next session is October 4th. The East Allen County Schools website has more information about the program.