Every year around this time RSU 14 starts to highlight the Senior class and their achievements as they take their next steps down the career paths they’ve chosen. But Austin Merkle is an example of one Senior who hasn’t waited for graduation to take solid steps towards his goals.
Austin has actually been pursuing his career since before high school, starting his work as a Junior Firefighter six years ago. Austin chose this path in order to follow in the footsteps of his father, who has been a firefighter for more than two decades and who he credits for giving him the desire to be a firefighter as a career path.
“I was raised to work hard and do what I can to help others,” Austin says, “This is a dangerous job that is hard on your body. It takes a lot of heart and a lot of commitment and a lot of training, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Austin has taken every opportunity over the last 6 years to dig into his passion for firefighting, participating in dozens of trainings to help hone his skills. Even tasks that seem incredibly simple require specific training under the types of circumstances firefighters are often in.
“One of the most important things you learn early on is how to breathe correctly,” Austin says, “ When I first started I could burn through our ½ hour tanks in 10 minutes. But firefighters use a technique called ‘skip breathing’ to conserve oxygen.”
Austin’s training didn’t stay with the basics. Over the years, he has done everything from Search and Rescue training to training in car extractions and ice water rescues, dedicating hundreds of hours to becoming the best firefighter he can be.
So while many students are planning for future careers right now, Austin’s career isn’t in the future at all.
Austin Merkle is living out his career, right now, as a firefighter.
This story was submitted by Lanet Hane, Director of Community Connections, RSU 14 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.