Richland Firefighters Mentoring Kids With Reading Program At Loc - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Richland Firefighters Mentoring Kids With Reading Program At Local Elementary School

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RICHLAND, WA. -- There's a feeling of excitement at Jefferson Elementary School in Richland, all because of some very special visitors.

These kids in this Jefferson Elementary classroom are learning from an unusual teacher Tuesday, their local firefighters. 

"It's fun to interact with the kids and see them light up," Lt. Joe DeRousie with the Richland Fire Department said. "Just pulling into the parking lot today people were running and waving to us. It just gives us an opportunity to talk to kids."

With these guy's tough job, the half hour they spend here is both rewarding and difficult. 

"Interacting with kids is always fun and a challenge," DeRousie said. "I'm not going to say it's not."

"Fired Up To Read" is the appropriate name of the new program, only in it's second week. The idea is simple. firefighters come for just a half hour during lunch on Tuesday and read.

"Firefighters came for our open house and there's pages and pages of students that want to participate," Amy Strege, a Community Outreach Coordinator with Benton-Franklin schools said. 

"I was jumping when my teacher said that, because I was so excited," 4th Grader Christina Hanratty said. "I was still excited when I was at lunch."

"They are so excited," Strege told us. "And they've been talking to their teachers all day about their firefighting friends are coming in to read with them. They just love having those heroes come in."

But at a moment's notice, the fun could stop. These firefighters never know when they'll have to leave to go back to their main job.

"We came in a little late because we were on an emergency call," DeRousie said. "So we're monitoring our radios because we're doing this on our duty time. We can't spread ourselves too thin with the resources we have."

This Tuesday, they got to stick around. And even in two short weeks, these men and women have inspired Christina to think about a life of public service. 

"When I grow up, I want to be a cop," Hanratty told us. "So I can run fast and that's why I want to be a cop."

For now the program is just for 1st and 4th grade students at Jefferson Elementary. There's a lot of students who want to get involved. So the school is thinking of expanding it. 

The program is so new, there aren't any guidelines right now. The plan is to have it for the rest of the year.