Malcolm Starling is still a few steps away from his dream job. He’s not a firefighter yet, but he’s learning what it takes at PSLA at Fowler High School.

“It’s definitely a good way of connecting with people and learning multiple things,” said Startling, a junior in the fire pathways CTE program. “And if something does happen — hopefully nothing does — you already have the basics to know what to do.”

What You Need To Know

  • Students in the fire pathways program at PSLA at Fowler High School learn what it takes to become a firefighter
  • The school district is partnering with the Syracuse fire department and OCC to keep graduates local and provide opportunities after high school
  • The students are also able to get EMT certified

As a junior, Starling knows more than the basics. The class teaches fire prevention and helps students develop the skills to handle emergencies. It’s taught in academy style instruction and has the same curriculum that volunteer firefighters learn.

“It’s never boring,” said Anthony Jarvis, the fire rescue instructor. “It’s always different. I deal with so many different students. I get to see them push themselves and succeed. They do things in this class that they never thought they could do before.”

Starling gets dressed in all the gear and said it’s pretty light after you do it a few times. With his helmet on, Godzilla is ready to go. 

“From all of my classmates, I am like the biggest and the strongest, so I got the name 'Godzilla' from that,” said Starling.  

In a basement classroom, Starling practices how to do a window bailout.  

“It’s when your room is hazardous, it’s a quicker way to get out the window,” he said after flipping through the window and down the ladder.


Two-and-a half years into the program, Starling knows how to rescue a person from a burning home. He knows how to work the hoses, and he’s close to an EMT certification too. With all those skills, the only thing keeping Starling out of a local volunteer fire department is the coronavirus. 

“I’m super eager,” Starling said. “Like, I’m super excited. Once COVID passes, I’m super excited to jump right into it.”

The class works closely with the Syracuse Fire Department to provide a pipeline of future firefighters. In his state of the city address, Mayor Ben Walsh announced the SCSD program will partner with SFD and Onondaga Community College.

“They will have the opportunity to get EMS and Drone training with SFD professionals and to attend college credit bearing classes at OCC as high school juniors and seniors,” Walsh said last month. “This example of ‘opportunity for all’ will make sure students are career and college ready.”

“I got into this program because there are multiple opportunities inside of here,” Starling said.

After graduation, Starling will have a leg up on other applicants, and Godzilla can put the gear back on and save burning buildings in our community.