Firefighter scholarship program extended

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A scholarship program for Nassau County volunteer firefighters will stay alight until 2020, thanks to a federal grant.

The county recently got a $1.5 million boost for its Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention Scholarship Program, which gives eligible firefighters a full ride to Nassau Community College, legislators announced Dec. 3.

The money from the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant fund will sustain the program, first proposed in 2006, for the next five years.

“I am happy to support the SAFER grant program and hope that it will aid the efforts of our local fire departments to attract and retain younger members,” Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement.

Through the program, the county will pay for any firefighter or first-responder to study full- or part-time at the Garden City community college as long as they’re a member in a volunteer fire company.

To keep the scholarship, recipients must stay active in their fire companies, meet certain academic standards and commit to a year of community service for each year they get county money.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the county paid more than $811,000 in tuition for 444 firefighters.

Between four and eight Garden City Park firefighters go to NCC on these scholarships each semester, Chief Rob Mirabile said.

The program helps the department recruit a few additional members each year, he said, but publicizing it more could help volunteer fire departments grow their rolls further.

“The younger members that we have that are going to go to school, it helps us keep them in,” Mirabile said.

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