The Tomball Police (TPD) and Tomball Fire Rescue Departments (TFRD) have formed new connections with LSC-Tomball lifePATH®, a post-secondary educational program for neurodiverse students. In the new collaboration, the TPD and TFRD are providing lifePATH® students transportation and internships.
“In policing, we are afforded precious few opportunities to genuinely, positively impact some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Jeffrey Bert, TPD police chief. “So, I jumped at the opportunity to host a lifePATH® internship.”
The TPD and TFRD lifePATH® internships are the result of student interest. “When seeking to arrange internships for our students, we ask them what their passions are,” said Nichoel Akers, LSC-Tomball lifePATH® internship manager. “One of our students, Aaron Lewis, was interested in military and law enforcement. That’s what took us to the office of Chief Bert.”
With great eagerness, Bert provided an internship opportunity and offered to connect Akers to other community members he believed would be willing to help. Bert’s introduction facilitated the TFRD internship, which is currently held by lifepath® student, Tanya Smaha.
“The TFRD vision statement is to ‘Promote organizational growth to match our community’s diverse and growing needs.’ We agreed to the lifePATH® internship opportunity to not only influence a lifePATH® student’s life, but to also grow our staff,” said Joe Sykora, TFRD fire chief. “When you say, ‘fire department,’ one automatically thinks of firefighters running into a burning building, but it’s much more than that. Our lieutenants and battalion chiefs are also instructors, and our hope is that these internships will help us grow as teachers and as care givers in our community.”
Before lifePATH® students begin their off-campus internships, they participated in RAMP, an on-campus job shadowing experience in which they develop the soft skills they acquired in classroom coursework. Following RAMP, students are eligible to participate in outside internships, like the TPD and TFRD positions.
“We’re scaffolding learning opportunities so our students can practice the skills they learn in the classroom,” said Dr. Anne Ginnett LSC-Tomball lifePATH® director. “First, close to us, in their on-campus jobs; then in their off-campus internships, they move further from us and continue to cultivate their new abilities and develop their independence. It’s an incredibly rewarding evolution to watch and be a part of.”
This fall, 12 total Foundation and Occupational and Life Skills Associate (OLSA) lifePATH® students started a variety of internships. Lewis, the TPD intern, is learning about law enforcement processes, and Smaha, the TFRD intern, is organizing and cataloging Fire and Rescue resources. Both are enjoying their internships.
“They are very nice,” said Smaha. “They’re compassionate, and passionate about helping people.”
Not only did the TPD and TFRD provide lifePATH® internships, but they also volunteered to give internships students free rides. “Our lifePATH® Foundation students needed weekly rides to their internships and back to the college, and our TFRD inter needed rides to the fire station,’” said Akers. “The TPD and TFRD have been so amazing. They offered to take care of our ride needs too, out of the goodness of their hearts.”
These new connections between the TPD, the TFD and the lifePATH® program will enrich not only the lives of the students but will also benefit the community.
“A lifePATH® internship will not just break down walls but will build bridges between police and lifePATH® students: bridges supported by pillars of trust, empathy, and understanding,” said Bert. “Working with lifePATH® students promises a holistic opportunity to make every first responder a more thoughtful, prepared, conscientious servant.”