"It has been my privilege to have been an instructor for all 30 years."
January 9, 2023

The PCCC Public Safety Academy Celebrates 29th Commencement and 30 Years of Public Service

Family, friends, firefighters, and members of the community gathered last month to celebrate the 29th Commencement of the Passaic County Community College Public Safety Academy and to honor the Academy’s 30 years of service to the community.

Some 199 recruits graduated from the Fire Academy last year; 57 were volunteer firefighters mainly from Passaic County. They were recognized at the event, held last December 2 in the auditorium of the Passaic County Technical Institute, a neighbor of the Academy in Wayne.  

“These 57 recruits represent only half of this year’s classes,” announced Jason Macones, director of the  Academy.  “We also had 62 recruits who are career firefighters and received their certificates at their own departments’ ceremony.”

The wail of bagpipes from the Passaic County Pipes and Drum band signaled the start of the ceremony with a procession of fire chiefs, instructors, and graduates. Captain James Hearney led the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the singing of the national anthem, and an invocation delivered by Pastor Luke Shover of Grace Bible Church in North Haledon.

Fittingly, Training Coordinator Michael Wanklin, who has been with the Academy for its entire 30 years, offered the official welcome, providing highlights of the Fire Academy’s three decades of growth and service. He noted that since opening in 1992, the Academy has trained over 5,000 firefighters from Passaic, Morris, Bergen, Sussex, Essex, and Hudson counties.  “It has been my privilege to have been an instructor for all 30 years and to see all of the 5,000 pass through the doors,” said Mr. Wanklin.

In fact, one of those trainees, Mr. Macones, later became an instructor at the Academy and is now its director. A former volunteer firefighter, Mr. Macones was recently named deputy chief of the Paterson Fire Department.  

In a special tribute, the Academy also recognized Dr. Steven Rose, president of Passaic County Community College, for his continued support of the training program and presented him with a white fire chief’s helmet that had “President” printed on the emblem.  

“It is indeed an honor to be recognized by the Fire Service with this helmet,” said Dr. Rose. The president also congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments and encouraged them to “continue their studies and keep learning”.

In keeping with tradition, Silvia Fonseca, Daniel Janz, and Jorge Padilla –  the class presidents of each class represented in the commencement –  presented the Academy with plaques to show their class’ appreciation for the Academy. These plaques will join the others now covering the walls of the Academy. 

In the highlight of the evening, the graduating volunteer firefighters, who completed FireFighter 1 and Firefighter 2 training, received their certificates, which were presented by the fire chiefs.  

The ceremony concluded with a benediction led by Pastor Shover and the strains of Amazing Grace played by the pipe and drum band as the grads and their guests celebrated the moment.

Congratulations to all the 2022 graduates of the Fire Academy. PCCC is proud of you and of your service to the community. Congratulations and thanks to the Fire Academy for three decades of outstanding accomplishment.

For more information about the PCCC Public Safety Academy click here.