Firefighters and EMS personnel play a big role in keeping us safe. The majority of them – 7 out of 10 – work on a volunteer basis. We need even more of these public servants in our community. A new Ivy Tech Community College Public Safety Scholarship encourages students to become an active volunteer with local fire departments or EMS agencies.
During this year’s legislative session, I worked to create a similar scholarship program statewide. While the bill did not pass, Ivy Tech is making this effort its own mission to create a path to recruit volunteers in new ways.
While we have an estimated 18,000 volunteer responders in our state, we need more. Our rural areas particularly are seeing a bigger decline in volunteers, with many of these communities relying solely on volunteers for fire protection and assistance in natural disasters or other emergencies. Without these courageous community members, we run the risk of departments cutting services or closing their doors completely.
This scholarship will boost our volunteer rosters.
Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, the college will provide scholarships to active volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. The funds cover tuition and technology fees. Full-time and part-time students can apply as long as they are seeking a degree.
The college will pilot this program, offering the scholarship for two school years and then sharing data with state lawmakers who could then assess the need and benefits, and consider expanding the program.
Volunteering as a first responder is a fulfilling service. These roles positively impact our neighbors, and skills obtained are transferable to other rewarding professions. Many of these volunteers work other full-time jobs, and this opportunity can help jumpstart or advance their careers, while they also save money and serve our communities.
Many towns across the country are trying to tackle this exact issue, and some are seeing results by offering incentives, like this scholarship, to recruit new volunteers. Please consider volunteering, then taking advantage of this scholarship at one of more than 40 Ivy Tech campuses across the state. To learn more, visit ivfa.org/news.
I will continue to work with our emergency responders to find new ways to attract people to fill these volunteer positions and keep our volunteer departments in operation.
State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) represents Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland counties,
as well as portions of Decatur, Jennings, Jefferson and Dearborn counties.
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