Middle school students become heroes for day

Learn search-and-rescue skills on field trip to Firefighter Union Building


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen at-risk middle school students rappelled down a multistory building Saturday as part of an interactive field trip at the Jacksonville Firefighter Union Building.

Students from J.E.B. Stuart Middle School, Matthew Gilbert Middle School and Joseph Stilwell Military Academy of Leadership worked together to learn search-and-rescue skills from Florida Task Force 5, the Urban Search and Rescue organization and FEMA Response Team from Northeast Florida. Students learned how to rappel down the building and hauled up victims during the exercise.

The trip was organized by Communities in Schools of Jacksonville to teach students important survival skills and teamwork training in a unique environment.

The students are participants in the Communities in Schools after-school initiative. The free program is offered in 21 Duval County public schools provides a safe environment for students to engage in academic and enrichment activities.

Communities in Schools of Jacksonville CEO Steve Gilbert said the nonprofit offers these types of enrichment activities to show students different paths to success.

“Many of these students come from violent areas where there aren’t a lot of opportunities,” Gilbert said. “This field trip will make them feel more empowered to succeed both in their lives and in the classroom.”