Over five days from June 14 to 18, 27 teens made Wakulla history. They were the inaugural participants in the county’s first Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course. The first graduates of the program were Alex Barlow, Jayden Castineira, Carter Christensen, Kendall Coleman, David Davis, Sadie Donaway, Olivia Evans, Vanessa Foreman, Alexis Green, Brooklynn Green, Mattie Harrell, DeShea Jones, Avery Hurst, Sophia Kamal, Isabella Laughton, Carson McCullen, Rylee Morrison, Bree Mosley, Kadence Mosley, Sam Nagy, Scott Nagy, Noah Pearson, Vanessa Rakes, Lily Teague, Alex Wilson, Charles “Chase” Weston, and Emily Zak.
CERT is a national program offered through FEMA. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers, who may be adults or teens, about disaster preparedness specific to the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. The CERT program offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization. CERT team members serve in supporting roles to professional responders during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.
The course was offered as part of the 2021 Wakulla 4-H Teen Leadership Camp. The program was offered in partnership with Wakulla County Emergency Management. Generous community sponsors helped to make the week possible. These sponsors included the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office, Wakulla County Coalition for Youth (WCCY), the Wakulla County Farm Bureau, Panacea Waterfronts, and the Wakulla County Health Department.
Participants received hands-on training in disaster medical response, light search and rescue, and fire suppression from Wakulla’s professional fire and emergency medical services first responders. Guest speakers provided additional opportunities for the youth to expand their knowledge about government and civic engagement. Visitors throughout the week included Representative Jason Shoaf and Senator Loranne Ausley.
UF/IFAS Extension faculty and 4-H volunteers provided hands-on lessons in disaster resistant gardening, how to cook outdoors, and archery. Participants also had the chance to learn about marine science and coastal ecology with Sea Grant agent Erik Lovestrand.
The June 2021 course was offered as an introduction. Graduates of the summer course have been offered the opportunity to continue with the program during the school year. Those youth who opt for the 2021-22 4-H Teen CERT program will have the opportunity to take a deeper dive into emergency preparedness and will have opportunities to engage in hands-on service to the community.
For information about this program and other 4-H programs, please contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension office located at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville, Florida. Wakulla 4-H can be reached at 850-926-3931, the website https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/wakulla/4-h/ , on Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.