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Edmonton fire cadet program through school offers teens valuable life lessons

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Teens in the Edmonton area are getting a first-hand look at what it takes to be a firefighter.

The Edmonton Fire Cadets program is held weekly and takes students aged 14 to 18 through the steps to learn how to do the job.

The work experience program uses both classroom and hands-on learning and is offered through area school boards.

"I've learned the real demands of being a firefighter, how hard and fun and exciting it is," fire cadet Haylee Ward, a student at Edmonton's St. Joseph Catholic High School, told CTV News Edmonton.

Students can earn up to six credits over the course of the school year.

The application deadline to apply for next year's cadet program is the end of April and can be competitive.

"It is pretty physically tough, but if you have the determination and the will to do it, you can do it," the 17-year-old Ward said.

Chris Turner, the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services cadet coordinator, told CTV News Edmonton his top suggestion for anyone applying for the program is to provide "a good story of who you are."

"You only have one chance to make a good first impression and that application’s going to your first impression," he said.

For 17-year-old fire cadet Cole Gist, who attends Sherwood Park's Salisbury Composite High, helping people is what makes firefighting appealing, even taking priority over an opportunity to play football in the United States.

"Firefighting is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I know that if I aspire to do that and get my courses ... that’s my goal," he said.

Not every cadet will go on to become a career firefighter, but they will leave it with skills that last a lifetime.

"(I've learned) not only about firefighting and safety but about myself through doing things that will be very useful in life," Ward said, something Gist echoed as well.

"It’s definitely a life changing experience for me," Gist said. "It’s taught me a lot of valuable life lessons. It’s taught me how to be mature."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Sean Amato

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