(Bradenton, FL—June 8, 2017) “Good job, mom!” exclaimed an 8-year-old as she was watching her mother graduate from the Manatee Technical College Fire Academy. Firefighter class number 31 graduated on June 7, and 31% of the class were women—five of 16 graduates. It was the largest group of female firefighters to graduate from the MTC fire science academy in the history of the school.
Graduates were Richard Battle, Mike Beam, Tiffany Bond, Zachary Clark, Geovanny Cruz, Jennifer Diaz, Lissette Fernandez, Justin Geer, Michael LaBoy, Clarence McDowell, Anthony Nowakowski, Kaleb Queen, Virginia Register, Brandon Rickrode, Alex Vice, and Jennifer Zach.
This was also the most competitive class in recent history. Jennifer Diaz earned the practical skills award for scoring 99.375 on the 300 skills firefighters must master. Alex Vice won the award for physical agility, completing the combat challenge in three minutes and 24 seconds. Diaz, Fernandez, Nowakowski, and Rickrode tied at 94% for the highest academic award. Five graduates had perfect attendance: Clark, Diaz, Fernandez, Geer, and Zach.
In the graduation speech, Brandon Rickrode said he would be honored to work alongside any of his classmates. He ended with a quote: “Courage is looking fear in the eye and saying get out of my way—I’ve got things to do.”
Two sets of cousins were in class 31: Jennifer Diaz and Lissette Fernandez, and Justin Geer and Kaleb Queen. Geer’s father, Tim Geer, the Battalion Chief for the City of Bradenton Fire Department, was given the honor of presenting both young men their certificates.
Completion of the Fire Fighter program and passage of the state certification examination are statutory requirements to be employed as a Fire Fighter in Florida. The MTC Fire Science Academy is approved by the Florida Bureau of Fire Standards and Training.