While many of his peers were sitting in classrooms waiting for the school day to end, Tylor Druge, 17, was carefully making his way down the side of a six-story building.

“It was definitely an adrenaline rush,” said Druge, an Ellison High School senior.

Druge was one of 11 students who rappelled from the roof of the Courtyard by Marriott in Killeen on Friday afternoon.

The students are cadets in the Killeen Fire Department’s Fire Training Academy, a two-year program run by the department as one of the Killeen Independent School District’s career and technical education offerings.

The academy started in 2003, and the students at the hotel Friday represented the 10th class.

“I was always interested in becoming a firefighter, and being able to help people and save lives,” Druge said. “It’s a lot of work, but I like it.”

The cadets attend the academy, located near the Killeen Fire Department’s Central Station, for three hours a day, five days a week. They learn just about every aspect of professional firefighting, said academy instructor Justin Todd.

“It’s rigorous,” said Todd, a fire rescue officer/paramedic at the Killeen Fire Department’s Station 5 and a technical rescue team leader. “They are learning everything that a regular adult firefighter would learn in an academy.”

That includes skills such as rappelling. Todd said students started learning the techniques and concepts in the classroom, then tried it on gradually taller structures before tackling the hotel Friday afternoon.

“It’s sort of a reward for them,” he said.

While their work at the Courtyard by Marriott may have been a fun reward, cadet Jonathan Jewell said making the commitment to be in the program was no joke.

“If you really want to do this, you have to give 110 percent,” said Jewell, a senior at Shoemaker. “It takes a lot of effort and hard work.”

Students who successfully complete the two-year academy will be able to qualify to take the Texas Commission on Fire Protection exam after high school. Todd said successful students are mature and driven to do more than the minimum requirements.

“They are very self-motivated,” Todd said. “They really give it their all.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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