With thanks to their families, instructors and supporters, 33 cadets, known as Class XXI, graduated from the Verdugo Fire Academy during a ceremony at Glendale Community College on Saturday afternoon.
The fire academy is an accredited regional training program run through a partnership between the college, Glendale Fire Department and office of the State Fire Marshal.
Graduates from Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada Flintridge and beyond participated in a yearlong, part-time training program that included 900 hours of instruction. At the end of the journey, cadets graduated with a Firefighter I certificate, which offers the ability to test and apply for a firefighting position.
One cadet in particular — Isaac Davalos — excelled in the program.
The Los Angeles John Marshall High School product swept five academic, leadership and service honors, the first time that had been accomplished, according to Chief Tony Bagan, the academy’s fire technology director.
“This means everything,” Davalos said. “I humbly accept every single award. I don’t take full credit at all for it. It was with the help of my sisters and brothers in the academy. We all helped each other; we all lifted each other up.”
Davalos was presented with the fourth annual Andy Troncale Memorial Award, named after the former Arcadia fire captain. The honor is based on which cadet best exemplifies leadership, team-building skills and cohesion, and it comes with a $1,000 grant.
Along with that prize, Davalos was lauded with awards for “Outstanding Community Service,” for which he contributed 95 hours, “Highest Academic Achievement,” “Outstanding Leadership” and “Top Cadet.”
Davalos was also one of 16 cadets sponsored by a fire department or an affiliated foundation, which helped defray academy expenses with donations of gear or money.
Davalos and Peter Navarra were sponsored by the Monterey Park Fire Department.
The Glendale Fire Department was the largest sponsor, offering aid to five cadets, including Burbank resident Ronald Martinez.
“When you decide to pursue a career that goes above and beyond anything else, it’s surreal to graduate,” said Martinez, one of eight cadets honored for perfect attendance. “I felt like I wasn’t even there. It was amazing.”
In addition to Martinez, Glendale Fire also sponsored Christian Der Gregorian, Robert Luke Wesselhoff, Evan Senane and Osmari Reyes.
Brandon Ordonez-Rangel was presented with the final award given during the ceremony for “Outstanding Physical Performance,” given to the cadet who does best on the National Wildlife Coordinating Group Pack Test for firefighting, which consists of a 3-mile hike with a 45-pound backpack over even terrain. It should be completed in 45 minutes.
Ordonez-Rangel finished the exam in 26 minutes, 22 seconds, which averaged to an 8-mph walking pace.
One man familiar with pomp and circumstance is Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred B. Roberson Jr., who attended the ceremony to see his son, also named Winfred Roberson, graduate.
“I’m proud of him and all of these cadets for taking the time for this,” the local school superintendent said. “This is a service job, and to know that they’re willing to dedicate their lives to save lives and property is special.”
Victor Gonzalez was named battalion chief of the class.