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Teens get jump on emergency procedures

| Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006

"Hey, Mr. Gio, is this all right?"

The voices echo across the room full of students dressed in full firefighter gear to Mark Giovanelli, who created and instructs the Protective Services program at the Mon Valley Career and Technology Center.

Within the walls of this classroom, the students enrolled in the program are taught "real world" proper responses to emergency situations.

"They are responders," explained Giovanelli, who has 20 years' experience in various fields of protective services.

Trained as an expert in emergency medical service, he served as a corpsman in the National Guard for 10 years. Giovanelli served as part of the law enforcement team in Fredericktown.

The programs at the technology center include emergency medical services, fire and safety, law enforcement, criminal justice, rescue, 911, private security and terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

"We teach preventive planning here," he said. "The criminal justice program equips and motivates our students to step right into the police academy, if that is their major, or into college in pursuit of a law degree. Some of our students are currently volunteering in EMS dispatch or junior firefighter positions in the Mon Valley area. Even though we are a technical school, we still encourage the students to maintain strong academic ethics, good study habits, and purposed goal setting.

"This empowers them to excel in their classes and gives them an edge of having a strong foundation in their particular field of study," he said. "There is a lot of positive energy here and love; love for one's neighbor. It takes a lot of heart to work in any of these fields of service."

When asked about his career change, Giovanelli said "I actually found this job by accident."

Giovanelli said he had been looking for a job in the newspaper when he came upon an advertisement that said "Instructor wanted to teach protective services program."

"I answered the ad, accepted the position and truly started this program from scratch. I set up the room to exhibit the real-life scenarios that would likely take place in an emergency situation in any one of the programs offered here," he said.

Cassie King, a Charleroi Area sophomore who is in the criminal justice program, is considering a career in criminal law. "It's really a great challenge for girls to participate in this program because it makes you stronger," she said.

Jermain Thurston, a junior at Charleroi Area High School, said his ultimate goal is to serve the community in the field of law enforcement as a police officer. "I just want to help people," he said. "I was encouraged by a good friend with whom I worked closely at the Salvation Army while I attended camp."

The Protective Services Program has been in existence since September 1998.

"This program is just one of 13 programs offered at CTC," said Bradley DieCas, administrative director at the technology center.

"The students enrolled in our programs learn that good grades academically are of utmost importance in primary subjects. ... Even though this a technical school, they must do well academically. They also learn good work ethics, which are not always taught," DieCas said.

"We have a very high ratio of job placement here. These students, upon graduation, are equipped technically and academically to step into employment upon graduation or continue their education and use what they have learned at CTC to support them financially in their endeavors on their journey to a successful future, and making the world a better place."

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