Atlanta Fire Chief Talks Career Pathways with Seniors at Therrell High School

A career in fire and rescue is well within reach for 19 seniors at D.M. Therrell High School.

Through a partnership between Atlanta Fire Rescue Department (AFRD) and Atlanta Public Schools (APS), 19 seniors at D.M. Therrell High School are enrolled in the fire pathway class and AFRD Delayed Entry Program.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until I heard about the fire department, and I think it may be a good career for me because I love to help people so much,” said one fire pathway student.

On Sept. 26, Fire Chief Randall B. Slaughter stopped by D.M. Therrell High School to discuss career options with fire pathway students and their parents.

He shared his journey from roaming the halls of D.M. Therrell High School to climbing the ranks and becoming fire chief.

“This is one more vehicle by which you may decide you want to make a living,” Chief Slaughter told students. “Whatever it is you decide, I want you to be the best you.”

After graduating from Therrell in 1986, Chief Slaughter had a brief stint at Georgia State University but admits he was not focused at the time and flunked out. In 1990, after completing an active tour of duty with the United States Marine Corps, he began his career with AFRD and never looked back. He completed three degrees (an associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s) all while working full time on the force. He has served in each division of labor and at every rank within the organization.

 “Whether I say I can or I can’t, both is true,” said Chief Slaughter, while explaining to students the importance of self-motivation and determination.

Students also had the opportunity to ask questions, both personal and professional. Chief Slaughter answered them all – from questions regarding his relationship with his family, his plans for retirement, and advice for young people.

His advice: “First of all, stay out of trouble. Second, start taking care of yourself health-wise. Third, if people aren’t adding value in your life, cut them.”

The AFRD Delayed Entry Program is composed of both a fire pathway curriculum (or technical education) offered in a classroom and a summer internship opportunity with AFRD, where students can earn EMS certification.

“It’s an opportunity for our scholars to be exposed to fire safety and professions,” said Principal Shelly Powell.  A career with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department is a valuable option for any scholar. I am committed to keeping this program at Therrell High School.”

The AFRD Delayed Entry Program, in partnership with APS, provides career exposure to fire and emergency services, mentoring, leadership development, team building, guest speaker sessions, preparedness training, EMS credentialing, and a pathway to employment opportunities as a firefighter with AFRD. 

Starting next school year in 2020-2021, the fire pathway and AFRD Delayed Entry Program will be open to APS students district-wide through the Atlanta College and Career Academy.

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