TOLEDO, Ohio — There's a new program at Toledo Public Schools TPS that aims to prepare high school students for a career in local law enforcement or firefighting and emergency medical services EMS.
The three-year program is called PS 419. The PS stands for public schools and public safety. It was developed in partnership with Owens Community College, Toledo Fire and Rescue and the Toledo Police Department.
The program begins for students during their sophomore year with an exploratory course and then in grades 11 and 12, there's a more dedicated focus for both policing and firefighting careers.
Second semester seniors can enroll as college students at Owens Community College to earn criminal justice credit or their basic EMT certification.
"We're gonna have one-on-one mentorship from both police and fire beginning sophomore year for our students, so they have someone who's already working in the field who can guide them along and give them advice," said Tom Dimitrew, the Senior Director of Career Technology at TPS. "Most importantly when they finish the program as high school students, it can guide them along to the next step."
Dimitrew hopes that by the end of the course, the students will make a determination for which direction they want to go.
In the case of firefighting, they can take a test with the city and begin a career at age 18.
In the case of policing, students can enroll at Owens Community College to take an additional criminal justice credit until they turn 21 and are thereby eligible to apply for a career with TPD.
"If you have one or 100, they gotta be the right person. I think this system is setting itself up well to make sure that that young man or woman is identified early on, help him or her both academically and professionally, to help them to succeed," said Michael Pfahl, the Dean of School of Business, Information and Public Service at Owens Community College.
The program also has a focus on keeping students working for the community they grew up in, know well and care for. This is especially critical for TPD while currently facing a deficit in sworn officers.
For a city of Toledo's size and crime rate, Chief George Kral has said he would like to see up to 720 officers on the force, but they only had 602 sworn officers going into 2021.
They'll soon have 627 officers, counting the 25 cadets in their academy.
The public safety program starts this fall and TPS is still enrolling the course through summer. Students interested in enrolling can speak with their school counselor or visit TPS.org.