Emmanuel Mielke was nervous when he started his first day as a firefighter in February at a station in downtown Madison.
But he had a head start. Mielke already met some of his colleagues when they were his instructors at the NextGen Responders Academy, an emergency medical responder and fire training certification program for high schoolers.
His first day also marked a first for the city fire department. Mielke was the first candidate they hired from the NextGen program, which launched in 2017 with the hope to draw more young people into the fire service.
"It's a blessing. It's not very common for young people to get into the fire service and have a full career going at the age of 21," Mielke said, adding that many volunteer or work part-time at stations.
High school students can enroll in NextGen's free classes at their local tech college.