New $500 scholarships for firefighters from Blue Cross Blue Shield
A new scholarship will take a burden off of volunteer firefighters and firefighters-in-training. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina Firefighter Stipend and Scholarship Program will provide stipends of $500 per term or scholarships up to $1,000 per term for eligible community college students pursuing NC Firefighter Certification courses. These funds will assist North Carolina fire and rescue departments with recruitment and retention of firefighters. The new scholarship will support the recruitment and training of individuals to achieve their Firefighter I & II certifications to increase the number of firefighters within the state. Beaufort County Community College is one of only 20 community colleges in North Carolina to offer this new scholarship.
Within BCCC’s four-county service region, Washington Fire and Rescue is the only full-time staffed fire department. All other departments are staffed by volunteers. Having firefighters obtain I and II certifications gives them the option to work at a full-time department and increases their personal safety and skill level.
“This program is vital to bring in new firefighters to the field and to get more of our current firefighters certified,” said Andrew Coccaro, Director of Fire & Emergency Management Training at BCCC. “Many volunteers are already working on their certification. This is a great way for them to finish their certification, because it will make it quicker and cheaper. Instead of having to juggle a part-time job, they can just focus and get it done.”
In addition to the new scholarship–thanks to changes at the state level–fire training is now faster. Some classes are now combined. Whereas Beaufort used to offer a start-to-finish, cohort-based fire academy, volunteer firefighters can now take just the courses they need. “We’re offering the certification program in a linear fashion, so if they need some of the courses, we will help them,” said Coccaro. “They can jump into the series and still qualify for the scholarship to finish their certification. If they want the complete series, they can do that as well.”
The new scholarship can be used to cover the cost of textbooks and travel to campus, along with other “cost of living” expenses. Volunteer firefighters from some departments must drive an hour or more to BCCC’s campus to take classes, so this scholarship can help ease their financial burden.
“Volunteers are harder to come by,” said Coccaro. “This new funding will help people who want to do it, but have been financially strapped. This will also help put highly trained new firefighters into the field to replace firefighters retiring with 20 years of experience. We can get them to that level of expertise faster. The community will get a higher level of training. Anytime we can get firefighters to do things in a new way or a safer way, it helps them and the community.”
New students will need to affiliate with a department for training. They can contact Andrew Coccaro at 252-940-6363 or Andrew.email@example.com to become affiliated or learn more about the scholarship and currently scheduled fire trainings. Volunteers can text BCCCFIRE to 844-326-6817 to stay informed about upcoming classes.