Owen Strouse Scholarship Winning Essay

Owen Strouse Scholarship Winning Essay:

Since I can remember, I watched my dad, a volunteer firefighter of 34 years, run out the door of our home to help serve others and put his life in danger. So, in 2019 when I became a junior firefighter, I knew there were going to be some scary and unexpected things that I might face. I also knew that I could grow as a person and benefit greatly if I chose to volunteer and follow in my father’s footsteps. It has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life and has helped me understand how important volunteerism and first responders are. 

Watching my father serve has a volunteer firefighter in our community has taught me to be thankful of others and to give selflessly. Every time my dad and I walk out the door and leave for a call, my mom tells us she loves us and reminds us to be safe. I hadn’t really thought much about what that really meant, until a fire call really hit home with me. One night, I watched as my dad and his friends ran into a burning building, flames coming out every window. An explosion occurred and I heard there were firefighters trapped. I immediately thought about my dad and wondered if I would ever see him again. Fortunately, I did, but ever since then, I have thought deeply about what my mom says to us as we leave. Watching my dad go on scary calls, and now going on those calls myself, has taught me to look at life in a new way. Serving my community and being a firefighter, just like my father has done, just feels right. It is something I must do, no matter what the risk. I have never second-guessed going on a fire call or leaving my home to help others, because I never saw my dad do that. It feels natural for to me to help that person who doesn’t have someone there for them during their hard times, because I have watched my dad do it as long as I can remember.  

Watching my father being recognized for what he does in the fire service has taught me the importance of volunteering and giving to others.  If I am being honest, when I first started as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 14, I didn’t think much about it and I didn’t take as much pride in volunteering as I do now. In 2021, I was blessed by the York County Fireman’s Association to win the National Junior Firefighter of the Year award. I finally realized what those awards that my dad received over the years meant. It was recognition by others in our community for dedication to the fire service and for giving selflessly to others. I now also serve, like my dad, so that people in my community know that we as firefighters are there for them. I realize how much we are doing for our community and the difference we are making. I am grateful that I have learned this through my father’s commitment to firefighting and volunteerism. 

My fathers volunteer work in the fire service has helped me develop a strong appreciation and respect for others and has helped me understand how important it is to develop lasting relationships with members of my community. I know how important it is to choose the right people to be around. The guys at the firehouse are people who teach me, help me grow, and watch my back like I am their son. They tell me how much I mean to them and that if anything were to ever happen, they would be there for me. The fire department gives me a safe place to go and something to do when needed most. It has become an extension of my family, one that never would have existed had my dad not started volunteering at the Yoe Fire Company 16 years ago. 

After volunteering for 4 years, I still go home every night knowing that I have helped serve my community in some of their worst times. I have grown as a young man and learned so many things that shape who I am today.  I credit my dad for this. I have watched my dad give selflessly of himself for my entire life. Every time he left the dinner table to go on a fire call, missed one of my basketball games, or skipped an entire night’s sleep after rescuing someone from a motor vehicle accident,  he was setting the example for me on the importance of serving and helping others, no matter what the sacrifice. Because of that example, volunteering in my community has brought me joy and sparked a period of personal growth for me, one that I hope to develop even further through my college experience.

Support for first responders, like me,  through structured educational programs, public funding, and community advocacy for equipment and supplies is necessary to further develop volunteer firefighting and first responder programs. Without these programs, our communities remain unprotected, and young students like me don’t have the opportunity to volunteer and give back to their communities.  I recognize now how vital first responders are to our community and that its about much more than putting out fires and driving an ambulance. Its about community. 

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