Local firefighters mentoring middle school students

TFD’s first day of the “Lunch Buddies” program. Photo courtesy: TFD’s Twitter account

The Tallahassee Fire Department has started a program called the “Lunch Buddies,” which involves firefighters visiting Leon County schools to mentor students.

This program was started by TFD Lt. Kirshner Saint-Charles.

With a goal to make a positive impact on kids in the community, Saint-Charles proposed the program to Leon County Schools and the Tallahassee Fire Department to bring his vision to life. In Leon County there are eight middle schools and two K-8 schools, which means the firefighters are mostly dealing with middle schools.

Most would say middle school students are at a pivotal time in their growing stages. This is the time where one can see what type of route a kid will go down, good or bad.

TFD spokesman Todd Inserra is aware of the struggles that comes with middle schoolers and authority but chose to stay positive.

“I was certainly hesitant at first due to the nature of middle schoolers. I wondered if we needed to visit elementary schools instead, or even high schools for more of a recruitment purpose. However, the middle schoolers have been great,” he said.

Inserra said the firefighters help students feel acknowledged and they give them an “opportunity to sit and talk with them about whatever they went to talk about.”

“In our profession we likely see people during their worst days of their life,” Inserra said. “If they are calling 911, it means they need help. This program means a great deal to me because it gives TFD an opportunity to encounter people in an everyday setting. The students can see firefighters as ordinary people.”

The 16 fire stations in Tallahassee visit each school by response area. Everyone at each station has volunteered to mentor at the schools and they will continue going every other week for the rest of the school year.

Principals have shown an immense amount of support, posting pictures and sharing their experiences with the firefighters on social media.

Lamiyah Doyle, an eighth grader at Fairview Middle School, says she gets an opportunity to understand the firefighters.

“I feel that the program benefits me and my peers because it allows us to see that people in the industry, and firefighters are actually people that have emotions,” she said.

Doyle said that she feels a sense of security when she’s with the firefighters.  Lunch buddies may be coming to your kids in the near future. Be sure to ask your kids on updates to see the impact Lunch Buddies has on Leon County schools.