At Rappahannock High School (RHS), eight graduating seniors have taken and passed their classes with flying colors.
They have also saved lives and fought fires.
On Saturday, the class of 2013 at RHS will feature one of the largest groups of students ever to dedicate their time and services to their community as volunteer firefighters.
For more than a year, Christopher Aaron Rock, Dylan Dun, Scott Newsome, Matthew Self, Dillon and Calvin Selph have all run calls for the Richmond County Volunteer Fire Department (RCVFD).
Some of them began when they were only 16 years old.
The group of young volunteers, already the largest number of young people that Fire Chief Randy Passagaluppi said he has had in the squad at one time, grew larger with the addition of Tyler Hinson last September and Aaron Saunders in February.
Their tasks include attending monthly meetings, train-ins, taking classes, such as the 180 hour-long Firefighter 1 course, and assisting senior members on calls.
All of the students agreed that the great rewards in helping their community outweighed the hard work, long hours and little pay that went into being volunteer firefighters.
“It takes more than a suit to fight a fire,” said Dillon as he and his brother, Calvin described the late nights, heavy lifting and dangerous situations that came with the job.
“It’s not something you can just walk into,” said Rock.
Dun added: “You’ve to have the heart to do it. You see lot of stuff you that wouldn’t want to see.”
Dun recalled a painful experience where one of his friends wrecked his vehicle in Newland last August. Dun happened to be on call that day.
“I was one of the first people on the scene and just the fact of seeing him laid out in the field…it brought tears to my eyes,” said Dun, whose friend was flown out and treated for a broken arm.
When asked what he learned from being a member of the fire department, Dun replied: “Your level of maturity has to go up.”
“You have to uphold an image, because everybody out there sees that you’ve got that tag on the front of your truck,” said Rock.
Calvin detailed one accident to which he and Newsome had been dispatched where two infants were trapped in a vehicle. Newsome’s actions, according to Calvin, were nothing short of heroic.
“I remembered just seeing Scott jump in there and pull them out,” said Calvin, while Newsome humbly noted that he was just following orders from the senior members on the call.
“They told me to do it, so I just did it,” said Newsome.
The students’ abilities to handle such instances left Passagaluppi extremely proud and impressed.
“With us running bad motor vehicle accidents, stuff that the ordinary 17-year-old doesn’t see and being able to…see people injured and or killed… [to] deal with that at such a young age is a feat it in itself,” said Passagaluppi.
In describing important aspects of their relationships with the senior members and each other, Hinson emphasized teamwork while Rock stressed good communication.
Calvin also noted that, in working together, firefighters needed to know what each one of their squad was capable of.
Pssagaluppi said several of the veteran firefighters had taken the students under their wing.
“It makes the fire department very proud to be able to have so many young people…and hopefully show them another aspect of life,” said Passagaluppi.
When the young men are not fighting fires, their lives remain busy with school and extracurricular activities.
Alongside finishing classes at RHS, Rock played soccer and football, while Self currently works at Hobbs Hole Golf Course.
Dun plays golf and helps another member of the fire department with landscaping, while Hinson gives his dad a helping hand on their farm.
Saunders enjoys singing and playing guitar, while Newsome, Calvin and Dillon spend time hunting and fishing.
When asked about their inspirations to become volunteer fire fighters, Passagaluppi cited word-of-mouth as their primary motivation.
“Most of them are all friends together and when one says something about what he’s doing at the fire department or what it’s about, they all want to join,” said Passagaluppi.
Dun also stressed his desire to help his community and save lives.
For Rock, his involvement with RCVFD has motivated him to pursue a fulltime career in emergency services.
All eight graduates agreed they would find some way to volunteer for their community following their graduation.
“All of them tend to enjoy what we do,” said Passagaluppi. “They enjoy helping people.”
Graduation for Rappahannock High School’s Class of 2013 will be held Saturday, June 15, 9 a.m. on school grounds.