HANFORD — On Tuesday, a busload of over 50 high school counselors from Tulare and Kings counties made their way around College of the Sequoias three main campuses in Visalia, Hanford and Tulare. 

They toured and visited the different technical education programs offered at each campus starting with Visalia’s consumer family studies, child development, culinary and fashion design/merchandising.

The goal was for the counselors to get a first-hand look at programs available to the students who rely on them for information on options available to them after graduation.

From Visalia, the tour bus made a stop at the Hanford Education Center around 10:30 a.m. focusing on public safety programs with presentations and hands-on simulations.

At the COS-Hanford Center, the group of counselors rotated through classrooms in which they heard from the Director of the Fire Department Program Rick Smith, Hanford Center Provost Kristin Robinson and Co-Directors Gary Chambers and Jack Amoroso from the Police Academy Program.

Counselors asked questions, listened closely and participated enthusiastically in some of the simulations they were able to try.

Smith told of the competitiveness in the fire department, what classes students have to take, the qualities they are looking for, and ultimately the reasons why he enjoyed being a firefighter.

“The rewards are endless. Working in the fire department is one of the most amazing experiences you can have,” Smith said. “

He spoke of different firefighting scenarios, including jumping out of airplanes or scaling buildings, of fighting raging firestorms and the surprising amount of science and math they have to use.

“You see a lot of people in the worst moments of their lives, but they are always happy to see you,” Smith said. “”It’s a terrific career and a great program.”

Across the hall, Amoroso and Chambers were ready to brief the counselors about the very demanding and often stressful situations police officers find themselves in.

Chambers asked for volunteers among the group of counselors who would be interested in trying out a virtual simulation that police officers take for advanced officer training sessions.

A counselor from one of Visalia’s adult schools decided to volunteer in a scenario where she would act as an officer entering a scene of a crime where she is met with an individual and has to decide how to react.

“These scenarios happen out in the field, and what we do is set the scenarios up,” Chambers said. “We talk about de-escalation a lot now, and we have completely changed the way some of these situations are handled because of social media.”

The counselors got an eye-opening view of just how demanding a job being a police officer is and the difficult choices they must make.

“Every two years, we have police officers come back for these trainings and we assess their thought process,” Chambers said. “We changed what we do in here, and now we just sit around and we talk about it.”

In the next room, a group of counselors were busy trying out a driving simulation program where they got behind the wheel of a police car and try to maneuver through traffic in pursuit of a suspect or to the scene of a car accident.

By mid-afternoon the tour bus full of counselors arrived at their final stop at the Tulare College Center where they had up-close presentations and demonstrations about the ornamental horticulture and ag technology department.

 “High school counselors are integral to the career and education planning for all future college students,” said Thad Russel, dean of the COS, CTE and Workforce Development. “We are excited to have the opportunity to connect with our area counselors who have such an important impact on their students and our community.”

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