WHEATON, Md. — It’s blazing hot, but seven teenagers are hustling a mock patient onto a wheeled cot and into an ambulance, and they’ve got just five minutes to do it. Dominique Melo, 17, is told to hop up onto the cot and start hands-only CPR during the timed exercise.
Her “supervisors” are yelling encouragement: “Come on Dominique! Start compressions! Just like you were taught!” The other six teenagers are working together to steer the cart, getting the wheels to collapse so they can get it into the ambulance. “Teamwork, guys!” calls Lt. Irvin Smith, with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
The exercise is just one component in the brand-new Summer RISE (Real Interesting Summer Experience) Program, which matches students from all over Montgomery County with government agencies, nonprofits and private businesses for a three-week course designed to give them a window on the world of work.
Smith says the students did a great job: “We gave them two demos on how to do this properly and voilà! Within 10 minutes they were proficient.” Smith says there are 500 students taking part in the program, which is in its first year. He sees it as a great chance for kids to get exposure to careers they might not have considered before.
Smith said he has at least two prospects in the group of seven students in the program. “We have Sam, who wants to be a police officer, and we’re going to try to take him from the dark side and get him into the light,” Smith joked. He was referring to Sam Grossman, 16, who asked to be placed with the police department when he signed up for Summer Rise, but now says he’s considering a career as a firefighter.
Grossman is heading into the 11th grade at Blair High School, and said, “I enjoy helping people out, and being a firefighter, you have kids waving at you every day.”
He said the chance to experience the real world of public safety has been exciting. “It’s been cool experiencing what firefighters go through every day.” And if he weren’t in the Summer RISE program, “I’d be at the beach or hanging out with my friends.”
He doesn’t regret giving up those activities: “It’s a fun experience; you learn about a career that you’re interested in — it’s just a fun experience overall.”
Melo said she wants to become a doctor, but that this experience has really helped her. She says the demands of the job that firefighters do was striking. “Everything has to happen really fast. Much faster than I thought it would have to be, but it’s really interesting to get to experience it before even leaving high school.” she says.