By Wayne Gates
“Welcome to the brotherhood.” With those words, Firefighting Instructor Ryan Waterfield welcomed the graduates of the first firefighter EMT training class at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center to the world of public safety. A graduation ceremony for the group was held June 19 at the SHCTC Post-Secondary Campus on Eastwood Road in Mt. Orab. After a welcoming from SHCTC Superintendent Kevin Kratzer, Mt. Orab Mayor Bruce Lunsford talked about how valuable the graduates are to society. “There is a critical shortage of firefighter EMTs and firefighter paramedics and the problem is getting worse,” Lunsford said. “It’s a noble profession to serve the public and do this job. It’s much needed. Until you call 911 yourself, you don’t know how critical it is to have trained firefighters.” Lunsford then made a prediction of future success for the program. “I expect in the next ten years that every firehouse from Portsmouth to Cincinnati will have a graduate of this program serving in it.” SHCTC Post Secondary Director Vicky Carrington also spoke, telling the graduates, “In my eyes you are all heroes. The definition of a hero is an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and acting with courage, honor and self-sacrifice. I want to thank you for that.” Following the ceremony, Kratzer said that he felt on top of the world. “It was very rewarding. So much time from so many people went into making this happen. It’s a real sense of accomplishment,” he said. Instructor Ryan Waterfield said that he felt honored to be involved in training future public servants. “I was very proud of every graduate that came through the program. It was exciting to pose for pictures with them and know that this is going to be a part of their careers for the rest of their lives,” he said. Graduate Kyle Baylor, who overcame difficult personal circumstances to finish the program was also very pleased. “I feel a great sense of accomplishment. We all worked long and hard to get here. We stuck through the experience together and finished the class,” Baylor said. He also said that the desire to serve the public comes down to one simple question. “How do you look around at some of the things going on in your community and not want to step up and help?,” he asked. All of the graduates are already affiliated with local departments.