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Two Person County fire departments have built a relationship with a young firefighter who has had to overcome challenges to follow his lifelong career plan of becoming a firefighter.
Garrett Poole is a senior at Person High School who decided to step away from the extracurricular activities being offered at the school in exchange for a chance at a real-life adventure.
With help from his parents, educators and local firemen, Poole is working to make one of his long-lasting dreams come true.
“I do my best. I have to learn to live and live to learn,” said Poole.
Poole was diagnosed with autism at the age of five.
His mother describes his disability as being a learning process.
“You don’t know what to expect, what they will ever accomplish and it’s hard,” said Garrett’s mother, Michelle Poole.
According to the elder Poole, all of Garrett’s life, medical professionals have told their family there would be limitations to what he would be able to accomplish.
“He has exceeded every expectation we ever put before him,” said Michelle Poole. “As a mom you don’t know – when you have something like this thrown in your lap – what do I do? I don’t know.”
Students in the high school’s exceptional children’s program either have a learning disability or a harder time processing school material.
“Most of our students are below grade level. We help set something up to help get them through their struggles with learning,” said Garrett’s teacher Shirley Torain.
Exceptional children’s teachers such as Torain hold annual meetings with parents to review and discuss how a child has progressed throughout the school year.
‘Learn to live and live
At the beginning of his senior year, Poole’s parents and his teachers – Torain and Bryan Hurdle – came together with Roxboro Fire Chief Kenneth Torain to help Poole fulfill his dream of becoming a volunteer firefighter.
Poole has been a part of the Triple Springs Fire Department since and the people around him have seen nothing but personal growth.
At the beginning of this school year, Poole became more involved with Kenneth Torain at the Roxboro Fire Department, where he shadows the firemen, learning how to quick dress, how to put his gear on, location of his tools, which hose to use in case of an emergency and the difference in jobs.
Poole says he has learned several tactics by working with other firemen during the last year.
“What I have learned so far is to have all my equipment before we go on a call, check people’s blood pressure, temperature and know CPR,” said Poole.
Hurdle says he’s seen a marked improvement in Garrett’s personality over the last year.
“I think it has given him confidence. He can achieve his goals and I think it has helped him excel in the classroom,” said Hurdle.
Garrett’s mother agrees with Hurdle.
Having her son get a head start on his career while taking part in real life experiences has made him grow as a person.
“He is more outgoing. Whatever they (firefighters) ask him to do he is going to be there,” she said.
In 2018, Poole was awarded the Triple Springs Fire Department’s Distinguished Service Award for his commitment of time, support and inspiration to the department.
“He was proud but modest at the same time. He doesn’t expect a lot of praise so when he gets it, it’s genuine,” Michelle Poole said.
Chief Torain says the fire service is a family and no man gets left behind.
“We are about help. We are about serving people and not being served. He is just like one of my firefighters,” he said. “If he needs us from now until he’s 60 years old, he has a fire department family he can turn to,” said Torain.