That’s right; we’re talking about the brave people who answer the call and respond to emergencies as firefighters. Chelsea Andreou, Class of 2013, is one of those special people who runs into the fire when others are running out. Chelsea is proud to represent this unique group who dedicate their lives to responding in times of crisis.
After leaving Southridge, Chelsea attended the University of Guelph, hoping to become a veterinarian and played varsity field hockey. Unfortunately, Chelsea broke her foot at the end of her first year, and it turns out that experience would change her whole post-secondary career focus.
"After the door closed for varsity field hockey, it opened for me to join the University of Guelph First Response Team. It was on this team where my passion for public service and response work was ignited. Using teamwork, we would respond to a variety of on campus emergencies before 9-1-1 would arrive," explains Chelsea. "I learned that I was very drawn to teamwork and being directly involved in my community, which pushed me towards seeking a career in the first response field."
After this discovery, Chelsea went to Flemming College in Peterborough to complete her firefighting training. “Southridge taught me about the importance of volunteering, so being volunteer-orientated came naturally. I volunteered for the Township of Hamilton fire department doing door to door smoke campaigns with their public education officer.
Chelsea is currently working as a paid on call firefighter in Ontario and has supplemented that position by also working as a ski patroller, confined space rescuer, and wildland firefighter. In fact, Chelsea worked in northern Ontario during one of Canada's worst forest fire seasons this year as a fire ranger!
"This was a very extreme year for forest fires. It was exhausting. We would get flown out to the fires via helicopter and work on extinguishing them with the resources we had. We would camp on site typically until the job was done. Sometimes seeing the fires can be humbling, but each fire has a new learning opportunity to offer," says Chelsea.
“Life is supposed to be a journey, so for me, keeping my mind open is how I’ve been able to discover what I’m passionate about.”
Another part of her Southridge experience that impacted her choice to pursue this as a full-time career was that, while in school, her teachers taught her to try hard and that those efforts would achieve her desired results. “Firefighting is still a largely male dominated industry. That being said, change is starting to happen and fire departments are looking for capable people of all sizes and backgrounds to diversify, and ultimately, strengthen the force. If you're a smaller person like me who is interested in this career, just know it is possible to achieve!"
In reflecting on her time at Southridge, Chelsea appreciates how many opportunities it provided to help her become a well-rounded individual. She fondly remembers the outdoor education opportunities, playing on sports teams like field hockey and swimming, participating in the debate team and Reach for the Top, school plays and jazz band. “Southridge opened my mind and gave me the confidence and ability to learn more about my strengths,” she reflects.
Chelsea is most proud of contributing to a community positively and being there for someone on their worst day. “Having the opportunity to support them during that experience makes this career so rewarding for me. I believe when someone calls 9-1-1, they're expecting someone who cares and will help, and I remember that every time I get called out. "Being someone trustworthy that a vulnerable member of society can count on is the best part of the job," she explains.
“Life is supposed to be a journey, so for me, keeping my mind open is how I’ve been able to discover what I’m passionate about. Southridge equips you to follow your passion, to be adventurous, and to seek out the possibilities that lay within you.”