SMWC senior spends summer as Indianapolis firefighter

October 26th, 2016 | SMWC

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College alumni live all across the United States and work in numerous diverse fields. Once they have left The Woods students have gone on to be doctors, nurses, attorneys, company presidents, therapists and more. While the list of careers is long and unique, Senior JaBreena Gardner may be the first student that will graduate and become a firefighter.

The Criminology major from Indianapolis, Ind., spent her summer working with the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD). As she looked for internships, Gardner says she wanted to be different, instead of working with the police department as many Criminology majors do to gain experience.

Needing advice, Gardner says she turned to the Career Development Center at SMWC. The staff helped Gardner research and find an open internship; the rest was up to her.

“I have been interested in the fire department since I was little and this would give me a chance to see it up close and personal,” she explains. “I needed to see if this was really what I thought it could be.”

What Gardner imagined and the reality was vastly different, but she says learning about the inner workings of the fire department only strengthened her interest in the profession.

From the outside, life as a student at The Woods and life as a firefighter sound completely different, but Gardner says after finishing her internship the two worlds are more alike than one would originally think.

“My time at The Woods has been great, I think the thing I like most is the family aspect; everyone is a big family and that’s how a fire department is too,” she explains. “Both places are getting me ready for anything that may happen.”

One skill Gardner has mastered is dedication. She worked full-time while logging hours at the fire department on the weekends. She worked two 12 hour shifts; one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Gardner, who plays basketball for the Pomeroys and also works in the weight room on campus, is no stranger to long hours and committing to her passion.

During her 12 hour shifts, Gardner was assigned to a fire house in Indianapolis, moving to different houses and departments for each of her 12 hour shifts. she is humble, even when talking about the long hours while working another job or the fear and danger that goes into a career as a first responder. Not only did Gardner work inside a fire house, but she assisted on medical runs and even worked shifts where the department would get called out in the middle of the night.

“The internship was obviously very different,” she says with a laugh. “I learned so much more than I thought I would. I learned all the departments; I was never in a set place, which made it nice because I got to know everyone.”

Gardner may not have officially been on staff, but she says the men and women of the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) treated her as if she was already part of the team. Gardner even represented IFD at the annual Black Expo held in downtown Indianapolis July 7-17.

As a representative, Gardner worked a booth for the department. She passed out promotional items and worked in education for the hundreds of people that attend the conference and event each year. Donning an official IFD shirt Gardner says the clothing made her look and feel the part. The sense of pride she felt while wearing the gear solidified her thoughts on her future career.

“I got a shirt, it may sound silly, but I was really excited, I felt like I fit in with them,” she explains. “The whole Expo was really cool because I got to interact with people. I’m a shy person, but it was natural to jump in and pass things out and talk to people. I was honored to be able to represent the fire department.”

With one year left at The Woods, Gardner says she already has plans to go through the necessary training to become a firefighter. As a possible sign or maybe just a coincidence, the Indianapolis Fire Department is currently hiring, something that only happens every two to three years. Gardner says she’s already turned in a written application and will begin mentally and physically preparing for the practicum later this year. Gardner says it’s both the mental and physical aspects of the position that make it difficult, but she says that won’t hold her back.

“I wouldn't say fearless, but I’m confident in my skills, it’s something I’ve learned in my years here at The Woods,” she explains. “I enjoy helping people, all my fears go out the window when I know I'm helping someone and they can live to see another day.”

Comment on this article

This story has been moved to the archive and comments have now been disabled.