Romeoville Fire Academy will use grant to train new recruits

Romeoville — The Romeoville Fire Academy has received $100,000 from Endeavor Health, which it will use to provide tuition assistance to students from underserved communities.

The money is part of Endeavor’s Community Investment Fund and, according to a statement from the Village of Romeoville, was awarded “to support workforce development aimed at recruiting, training, and launching firefighter and Emergency medical Technician careers with a focus on young adults from diverse communities.”

Romeoville’s Fire Academy is one of the largest training programs in the state and was one of 43 organizations chosen throughout northern Illinois by Endeavor to receive funds to support programs for behavior health, violence prevention, housing and food insecurity, and access to care, and workforce development.

Romeoville applied for the grant after learning about it through the Edward Hospital System, where its EMTs operate. They sought the funding because the Academy had begun “seeing a trend where students of different ethnic groups wanted to join up but would become defeated when they heard the cost” during recruiting sessions, according to a statement from the village.

The issue is troubling since there is a nationwide shortage of firefighters and EMTs, including in Illinois.

This grant funding will allow for between 10 and 12 students from underserved communities to complete fire academy and EMT schooling and gain access to job placement.

“We’ve had a desire to find funding mechanisms to provide the courses tuition free to students that need it most and have an interest in the fire department or ambulance services,” said Romeoville Assistant Fire Chief and Academy Director Mike Pemble.

“Endeavor Health thought our proposal aligned with the mission of the Community Investment Fund and they awarded us seed money to get started,” he said.

The academy has assembled a committee that is currently developing a program to allocate the grant funding to students.

“We’re trying to capture the best way to determine eligibility and which students will be selected,” Pemble said, while noting there is unlikely to be a formal application process this year.

“If we see subsequent funding in years two or more, we will more than likely formalize an application process,” he added. “We’re still trying to determine exactly how selection will occur now, and we’re relying on our committee to see what that process might look like. Better said, it’s a work in progress.”

Romeoville Mayor John Noak praised the fire academy for doing “a tremendous job training not only Romeoville’s firefighters and EMTs, but also those from surrounding communities, states, and even other countries. This grant will allow the academy to apply that training excellence to new recruits who have dreamed of being firefighters but could not afford the training.”

Endeavor Health is Illinois’ third-largest health system, and third-largest medical group. It launched its Community Investment Fund in 2022 and has reportedly impacted more than 211,000 individuals with the services it has helped support and expand.