More than 160 students are hoping to translate their passion for community into careers in the public sector through Hoover High School's just-launched public service academy.
It's the maiden year for the magnet program that offers special public service tracks like law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical careers.
It's now one of two magnet programs offered at Hoover. For years, Hoover has offered classes for students geared toward occupations in architecture, engineering or construction, school principal Lori Grace said. About 80 students are enrolled in that program.
But on a recent school survey, Grace said, Hoover students said they're also interested in civic engagement and giving back.
"What came back overwhelmingly is they were most interested in public service pathways," she said. "This academy, in part, is one of the first that really builds a work force that goes directly back into our community."
There's no cap on enrollment, and Grace said any student throughout Fresno Unified School District can apply to transfer into the program. About 8% of Hoover's 1,900 students are taking the academy class.
Mark Zamora, who teaches that course, was once a paramedic, rescue diver and even a SWAT team member.
He was on the roof of the Regional Community Medical Center cleaning a patient's blood out of his emergency helicopter when he got a call about a teaching position at Duncan Polytechnical High School. After a year at Duncan, he took the new academy position at Hoover.
He's teaching his students CPR and how to take a person's blood pressure. Students will create a disaster management plan for their campus and learn how police and firefighters respond to emergencies.
"These students are going to explore not just how to pump on a chest and do CPR and what it feels like to drive with lights and sirens," Zamora said, "but they're going to get a really big perspective on what society is like and why we need those things."
The class will help prepare him for a career in criminology, said 17-year-old Jonathan Ramirez.
Ramirez, a junior, said growing up knowing half of his San Jose-based family members are in a gang motivated him to take a different path.
"I want to change the community where I live," he said, "and take the gang members and put them in jail."
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