If there is an emergency or a natural disaster, Charles Gonsowski knows how to help – and the teenager is qualified to do so.
Gonsowski was among 48 Henley High School students who earned the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification Jan. 20, qualifying them to volunteer to help during emergencies and natural disasters.
The new Teen CERT program, part of the Henley’s Health Occupations Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, is a collaboration between the high school and Klamath County Community Emergency Response.
Members of Klamath County Fire District No. 1, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, CERT, and Kingsley Field helped students learn the material, and several were on hand to congratulate students when they received their certifications.
Klamath County CERT team leader Rick Benjamin told students that they now have the skills to save lives.
“You’ve been trained to make a difference,” he said. “The more you know, the more you can help people.”
Klamath County CERT coordinator Ron Miller invited the newly certified teenagers to the county’s monthly CERT meeting. CERT members, who are volunteers, know how to provide immediate assistance to victims of an emergency or natural disaster. Training includes disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical aid, search and rescue, and team organization.
Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, who has trained school principals and others in emergency response for many years using the Incident Command System, attended the ceremonies to congratulate the students.
“Now that you are trained in CERT, you will be invited to join the school’s emergency response team for drills and actual events,” he said. “Your willingness to gain expertise in this area is appreciated.”
Henley’s Health Occupations teacher Jessica West this year added the comprehensive six-week FEMA CERT training to her First Aid and Beyond course. The course is part of the school’s Health Occupations CTE pathway, one of seven CTE programs offered at Henley.
Students who complete the 12-week course earn first aid/CPR/AED and FEMA CERT certifications. The class, like many of the district’s CTE courses, also qualifies as a dual credit class at Klamath Community College and students can earn college credits.
Gonsowski, a junior, is on the honor’s track of the school’s Health Occupations CTE pathway and plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
“It feels good to know how to help in real-life situations,” he said. “If there is a crisis, I can volunteer as part of the team.”
In addition to health occupations, Henley offers CTE programs in agriculture mechanics, agriculture science, business, digital media design, engineering, pre-teaching, and pre-apprenticeship in carpentry and construction. All six high schools in the Klamath County School District offer CTE programs and the district plans to expand the classes to its junior high schools.