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n ati v e hawaiia n » n ew s | feat u r e s | e v e n t s

Retired fire captains pay it forward with free firefighting training sessions By Lindsey Kesel


To have choices and a sustainable future, Native Hawaiians will progress toward greater economic selfsufficiency.

Upcoming Sessions

> Next 8-week session starts efore Hawai‘i’s firefighters get the Sept. 30, from 9 a.m. to noon honor of serving their community in this coveted civil service role, first > Papakölea Community Center – they have to fight their way out of Lower Level a massive pool of eager candidates > 2150 Tantalus Drive, Honolulu, HI vying for the same spot. But thanks to four 96813 retired fire captains on a mission to help ease > Call (808) 520-8997 the intense application process, the struggle to stand out can become a lot less daunting. Retired Honolulu Fire Capt. Richard Soo tests, which helped him identify perleads the intense eight-week study sessions sonal weak spots. “Learning from past at Papakölea Community Center, where he firefighters who lived this life gives us the other instructors share their mana‘o with a strong flavor of what it's really like to students gunning for a spot on Hawai‘i’s local Retired Honolulu Fire Capt. Richard Soo leads a training session for potential fire be a firefighter, and this strong connecfire departments. What’s even more incredible fighter recruits. Photos: - Lindsey Kesel tion with küpuna is very important,” he is that the entire experience says. “Their continuis totally volunteer-run and ing encouragement free to anyone willing to fuels our motivation. put in the work. It feels like we're After dedicating 27 building a sense of years to the Honolulu Fire ‘ohana.” Department and serving as Jessica Penner its first Public Information was a firefighter in Officer (PIO), Soo wanted Florida, but missed a way to share his love for passing the State his life's work and ensure exam by two points. talented recruits improve Now she’s getting their chances of success. “I ready to test for City was awarded my Hawaiian Participants spent eight weeks studying for the fire department's written entrance exam, which is administered every three years. and County next year. Homes lot in 2001 at Kala“It’s been an amazwahine Streamside and I recognized the need for a Exam, reviewing missed questions and strategizing ing experience, and we’re so lucky to have these career path for young Hawaiian adults who do not on performance enhancement tools. instructors give up their time for us,” she says. “It’s pursue a college education following high school Some days are spent in fire houses, cleaning the a good community of like-minded individuals, and graduation,” he says. trucks. “We want them to see the reality of life together we are helping each other. I feel much Papakölea-based nonprofit Kula No Na Po‘e as a firefighter and be prepared to take it all on,” more confident than I did the first time around.” Hawai‘i helps fund the students' textbooks and says Captain Soo. “The students can use the same What happens after test day? If any of the program other supplies, and the community center offers skillset we teach here for any test.” students make it past the written portion, Soo and the space free of charge. Though the program gives The sessions aren’t just one-sided; students also team go the extra mile to run candidates through a preference to Native Hawaiians, classes are open to get a chance to critique their teachers and provide Physical Agility Training (PAT) session, host mock anyone with a high school diploma or GED. feedback, allowing the leaders to constantly tweak interviews to mirror the actual panel interview, and Now in the training program’s ninth year, the their style to better support the students. At the end, critique their resume and interview performance. main thing Soo wants people to know is that the students are given certificates of completion. Looking forward, Soo hopes the next step is to classes are designed to create well-rounded appliSince the department only takes an average of apply this training statewide utilizing Hawaiian cants. “We teach them how to sit for two hours and 100 recruits out of 5,000 applicants, and the written homestead community centers on the neighbor take a 100-question test,” he says. test is offered once every three years, every little islands. “This could be a game changer for the Over eight consecutive Saturdays, the captains bit of knowledge counts. Over the program’s nine applicants and their families,” he says. “This job focus on various aspects of the job and application years, they’ve seen 38 out of their 400 students get can really make them a productive member of process – from time management to practice tests, hired by local fire departments. society, and the training sessions can cement their fire safety, department etiquette, and even interReis Yonehiro will fly to Maui to test for Maui desire to be firefighters.” ¢ viewing tips and agility pointers. Captain Soo and County Fire Department, after realizing that his fellow captains Gilbert Pelletier, Guy Katayama, true calling involves helping people in need. He Lindsey Kesel is a local freelance writer who Earle Kealoha and Curtis Aiwohi guide students found the most valuable aspect of the training ses- focuses on building community, protecting the through the nuances of the Fire Fighter Entrance sions to be the comprehension reviews of practice ‘äina, and preserving indigenous culture.

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