ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockton Fire Department’s newest recruits look back on their journey to fulfill their dream of becoming firefighters.
“It feels amazing,” said new recruit Sophie Thelen. ” Like you’re on top of the world.”
Thelen refers to the moment she received her State of Illinois Fire Marshal Basic Operations Firefighter Certification.
“You go through so much and then, like just one day, you’re there! You get certified,” she said.
She’s not alone: Taylor Leveque, Nathen Smith, and Emily Gustin earned their certifications recently as well. Now, all of them are volunteer firefighters for the Rockton Fire Department.
“Having the extra personnel that is certified, is going to be super awesome,” Gustin said.
Two of the new volunteers knew this was the career path they wanted to take in high school.
“I texted my mom [during my senior year] and I was like, ‘Mom…I want to be a firefighter for the rest of my life,” Thelen said.
Smith said, “When I was a kid, I really had no idea what I was going to do, up until my senior year in high school. And then, I joined the cadet program. From there, I just haven’t looked back since.”
Leveque always knew she wanted to work at a fire department.
“I came in here thinking all I wanted to do was the EMS side of it,” she said.
That’s because she thought she was too short to be a firefighter. But, her teammates refused to let her settle.
“They’re so motivational to you and they don’t let you take no for an answer,” she said. “They just really push you, and it’s been a really great experience for me.”
The journey to this moment hasn’t always been easy: they all had to get through a tough 262 hour course-load, between going to school, work, and trying to balance a social life.
“I just kind of sucked it up and kept pushing, and it took a really long time, numerous hours, but it’s awesome,” Gustin said.
Leveque said, “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being able to give back to people.”