Program on public service careers offered to Shawnee Mission high schoolers

Shawnee Mission Director of Safety and Security John Douglass said he expects the new program to be ready for the 2017-2018 school year.
Shawnee Mission Director of Emergency Services John Douglass was instrumental in creating the new curriculum. File photo.

Many kids think about being a firefighter or police officer when they grow up, but until they’re adults, they really don’t know how to pursue those dreams.

Now, Shawnee Mission School District high school students have an opportunity to learn not only what it takes to be a cop or fight fires, but also emergency medical technician work and other public service occupations.

The pioneering educational program, called “Project Blue Eagle,” began Monday with the new school year.

The Introductory to Public Service course has 380 students enrolled and a companion elective course that teaches emergency medical response training has 280 students, said John Douglass, executive director of emergency services for the district.

Douglass, a former Overland Park police chief, told the Shawnee Mission school board that planning for Blue Eagle began in January. His vision was to provide an opportunity for students to take practical courses that will prepare them for public service.

“It gives them a real shot at a career and continuing their studies in college if that’s what they desire,” he said.

The classes are being taught by professionals in their respective fields. The program also is expected to expand to educate students about careers in the legal profession as well.

The law schools at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, are offering guidance for the legal curriculum.
New classes that will be added over the next two years include police science, fire science, criminal forensics, computer forensics, crime analysis and IT for public service professions.

Students participating in the current emergency first aid elective will receive certificates in Community Emergency Response Training and Heart Savers.

Douglass also told the board the make-up of the first Blue Eagle class is diverse, with 50 percent of the students girls and 40 percent minorities.