Great Neck High School graduate Ryan Motchkavitz vividly remembers the firefighter stories his family told him growing up. He said that his uncle and father could point to houses as they drove along, telling stories of past fires and rescues there.
His uncle, for example, saved a child at the bottom of a 60 foot-well during a construction mishap. His dad also saved a fellow firefighter 20 years ago.
In addition to his firefighter uncle and father, Motchkavitz also comes from a family of fire chiefs and presidents. His grandfather George and his twin brother Lenny were both ex-chiefs and ex-presidents, having 70 years of service with Great Neck’s Alert Fire Company.
And now, as a member of the Alerts and recipient of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York’s Gerard J. Buckenmeyer Volunteer Scholarship, Motchkavitz is continuing that legacy.
“I was really excited to receive the scholarship because it was a great honor,” Motchkavitz said, speaking from the Nassau County Fire Services Academy in Bethpage. “Not only for me, but for my entire family”
Motchkavitz was one of 20 students chosen from a pool of over 100 people across the state. FASNY, which represents over 100,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York, awards the scholarships based upon someone’s volunteer service, academics, good character and a written essay.
Brian McQueen, director of FASNY and chairman of their scholarship committee, described the scholarship as a means of recognizing the best junior firefighters in the state.
“It’s a way for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York to build a foundation for our future firefighters,” McQueen said.
And for McQueen, Motchkavitz stood out as among the best.
“His academic achievements, his ability to weigh both his requirements in school and the way that he gave back to his community were stellar,” McQueen said of Motchkavitz.
Before becoming an adult firefighter, he worked as a junior firefighter for over five years, an officer for three and became a junior captain. He attended meetings, practiced fire drills, entered competitions and marched at parades.
While attending school, he served as co-president of the Robotics club, which has over 100 members. Motchkavitz explained that they compete in a robotics competition each year. Players have six weeks to build a robot to play a game, before competing with teams from all over the world.
“We’ve gone to the championship I believe six or seven out of the ten years – which is really great,” Motchkavitz said.
The Motchkavitz family, serving as mentors on the team, also emphasized the importance of safety. Motchkavitz said they had first aid kits, collar bags, splints, eye-wash kits and other items on hand should anything go wrong.
Motchkavitz also served as an officer of DECA, the school’s business club, as well as the Support our Troops Club. In the latter, he helped send boxes and cards to soldiers serving abroad. He also helped fundraise for a local orphanage every year around Christmas.
“We make a lot of money and it’s really good… We’re able to buy gifts for every single kid in the orphanage,” Motchkavitz said.
Ultimately, Motchkavitz will attend University of Delaware in the fall. He said that he considered engineering and might go for emergency management or homeland security, but will be studying history for now.
“I’m starting out by studying history at first,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what I was planning to do.”
But Motchkavitz said he would definitely continue in the fire service, whether it’s volunteering at a local department or working with the Alert Fire Company over his breaks.
“Even though I’m going to the University of Delaware, I’m going to continue with my service,” he said.