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Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Sixth Graders Learn of Careers

Lt. Jeffrey Laag

By Jim McCarty

COLD SPRING – Career Day at the Charles W. Sandman Middle School brings chaos and excitement to sixth-grade students and teachers each year. 
The halls were filled with animated pupils lining up to visit their chosen career speaker March 31, while speakers gathered props and laptops together in various rooms. Guidance Counselor Hannah Nelson had her hands full trying to herd the various groups into the correct line outside their selected career day sessions.
Over a dozen invited speakers provided insights and experiences as athletic coaches, police officers, firefighters, business people, naturalists, bankers, and more.
Lt. Jeffrey Laag, a 13-year-veteran with a wife and two kids, and Firefighter William Szemcsak, an eight-year veteran with his wife and one daughter, spoke to a packed classroom about their careers with the Cape May Fire Department. 
The classroom was full of boys who were clearly excited to see firefighters and all their equipment as Laag began describing the daily duties they must perform including equipment cleaning and maintenance, wearing various uniforms and PPE (personal protective equipment).
Both firefighters stressed that readiness is the most important part of the job, as is constant training and kindness to everyone.
Laag stressed that “bullying is not tolerated by the fire department, we have no time for that,” as he spoke about how all firefighters live in the firehouse together during their 24-hour shifts. 
Students showed curiosity and directness by asking “How do you stay awake for 24 hours?” (they sleep when they can), and “What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?” as a firefighter (anything to do with children being hurt). 
At the end of the session, one student asked how long it takes to get into the firefighter’s suit.
Lt. Laag then responded that they must put on all their equipment in under one minute. Of course, he was challenged to prove it; Laag managed to don the required equipment, including Scott pack and helmet, in under 45 seconds.
When the 30-minute session closed, the firefighters received an enthusiastic round of applause. Excited chatter continued as students made their way down the hall to their next adventure.
To contact Jim McCarty, email jmccarty@cmcherald.com.

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