Face of the Week: Kevin Goedeke of Orems Elementary School

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Face of the Week: Kevin Goedeke of Orems Elementary School

It seems one of the certainties of childhood: At some point in their youth, children invariably confront the question, usually from an inquisitive aunt or encouraging teacher: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

And, often as not, the answers are equally predictable: “A baseball player,” one child might say. “A fireman,” says another.

For Kevin Goedeke of Orems Elementary School, however, there’s no waiting to grow up. He is already what he wants to be, in a sense, playing club travel baseball in his spare time, either pitching or playing the third base corner for the White Marsh Warriors.

And, twice monthly, the 11-year-old shucks his school clothes, dons a uniform, and travels to Kingsville in northeastern Baltimore County. There, at the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company No. 48, he learns how to become a firefighter, one of the youngest students in the county to receive such training.

“I know that I really like helping people, and when you are in a fire company, it’s easy to do that. That’s what we do,” says Kevin, businesslike under the brim of his Kingsville VFD cap. “When I joined, I thought it would be exciting and something new I could do.”

Kevin is a member of Kingsville’s Cadet Program, a group of students ages 10 – 16 who, according to the department’s website, “learn valuable knowledge, skills, and training that prepare them to become firefighters and (Emergency Medical Technicians) once they reach their 16th birthday.” Kevin, who joined the group last year when he was 10, is the only cadet member at Orems Elementary.

“They think it’s pretty cool,” he says of classmates who see him stride into the school every other Wednesday in his uniform of dark trousers, company t-shirt and cap, and heavy work boots.

Kevin’s commitment to the Cadet Program doesn’t surprise Katie Kirschner, one of two Grade 5 teachers at Orems. “He’s always being kind and helpful to other students and staff,” she says. “In my classroom, I can always rely on Kevin to help out in any situation necessary. Many times, he helps without being asked.”

Intense curriculum

Kevin still has five years before he becomes official, but in the meantime, the Cadet Program serves up an array of sometimes strenuous training. One session might deal with “unracking” and “re-racking” heavy fire hoses onto the company’s 1,000-gallon pumper trucks. Another might instruct the young recruits in how to administer CPR or basic first aid. Rescue or fire operations, team- and leadership-building, and field trips to places like Maryland’s Medivac helicopter hanger or the county’s 911 center are part of the program as well.

Cadets also work with the company’s firefighters and EMTs to participate in community parades and other events.  “My dad picks me up from the training, and sometimes he’s more excited about what I’ve been doing than I am,” Kevin says.

The Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company currently includes more than 100 members and responds to more than 1,700 calls each year. According to its Facebook page, the company “consistently rates among the top responding companies in Baltimore County, usually at or above a 95 percent response rate.”

Kevin says he isn’t sure where the interest in firefighting came from; a grandfather once worked as a firefighter, but there’s little family history of firefighting that Kevin knows. His father, Rob, is a contractor, and his mom, Adrienne, is a registered nurse at a county hospital.

But Kelly Jackson, the other Grade 5 teacher at Orems, sees firefighter qualities in Kevin, specifically compassion and empathy towards others. “And he puts effort into every task at hand,” she says, “and even when it seems difficult, he uses perseverance and completes it to the best of his ability.”

Is he considering making firefighting a career? Kevin is unsure – he’s only 11, after all – but even if he doesn’t, he plans to join the volunteer company and do what he can to help. Meanwhile, there’s school – math, social studies, science, and physical education are his favorite subjects – and interests outside the classroom such as the drama club and the Math 24 Club.

And, being 11, Kevin’s also been preoccupied lately with a trampoline the family recently set up at home.

But firefighting is in his blood now, and Kevin says he remains attracted to all the good he could do as a firefighter someday.

“There’s an opportunity for you to either save a life or save someone’s home,” Kevin says with his customary firm optimism. “That’s a pretty big deal.”

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