Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Stephen Kadash
Stephen Kadash College of San Mateo, Fire Technology

Stephen Kadash says participating in community service projects during high school inspired him to pursue a career that would allow him to serve his community on a daily basis. The dream job and career goal for this Redwood City native was to become a firefighter. “Being a firefighter is a career that gives me the opportunity to help someone who is having one of the worst days of their life and they are depending on me and the rest of the crew to help them.” Knowing the increased competition for jobs in fire service and the demand for more educated applicants, Stephen took the first step toward his career goal by enrolling at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In 2012, he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in forestry and natural resources.  

Stephen’s second step in becoming a firefighter was to return to school for the necessary hands-on training that would make him eligible for employment. For this specialized training, he chose CSM’s Fire Academy. “When I graduated from Cal Poly, I knew I had to further my education to enter the fire service. I decided on CSM because it has one of the best fire technology/EMT programs in the area. I started with CSM’s EMT course, became an EMT, took a few more classes, and then I entered the Firefighter Academy.”

Stephen says that CSM’s fire technology program provided a solid foundation for his career. Courses are taught by faculty who are actively working or retired from the fire service and most of them attended CSM. The Firefighter Academy taught him the basic skills for the more advanced in-service academy; it also taught him the discipline that was needed to succeed in the academy. “The skills I learned at CSM have helped me tremendously,” he says.

“The strength of this program is the instructors. They were not only very helpful and inspiring, but they were passionate about teaching. They pushed us to become the best students in the classroom and the best candidates for the fire service. I found them motivating because they know the struggle and sacrifice it takes to get hired in this field, but they also know it’s an amazing and fulfilling career. It was evident they have a great deal of pride in their careers and the fire service,” says Stephen.

“My instructors helped me every step of the way. They helped me organize and build my resume; they improved my interview skills and helped me with my oral board interviews. They showed me how to be a standout candidate. I’ve never had a learning experience like the one I had at CSM and I’m very grateful, The enthusiasm and dedication they show in the classroom motivated me to do everything I can to make this goal become a reality.”

As a student in CSM’s Firefighter Academy, Stephen witnessed firsthand the value of program to the community.  “CSM’s fire technology program is producing qualified firefighters, many of whom will serve in local departments or districts. Also, representatives from local fire departments visited classes to reach out to students to help with community service projects. While I was at CSM, I volunteered with the San Bruno Fire Department to landscape and paint the American Legion in that city – it was a great experience.”

Upon graduating CSM’s Fire Academy, Stephen was hired by the very department he volunteered with—San Bruno —and is currently enrolled in the San Mateo County Fire Academy, the in-service training component. Once he completes this training, he will work on the line with his fellow firefighters. 

CSM’s Fire Technology Director Keith Marshall says of Kadash, “Stephen exemplifies the goal of our program. We strive to encourage students to work hard and be diligent to become successful in pursuit of a career in the fire service. Stephen did exactly that – he worked hard in classes and applied himself.  Kudos to him.”

For those considering a career in fire service, Stephen offers the following: “If you have the passion and the drive to become a firefighter, this is the program you need. The amount of work you put into this program will pay off.  The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.   If you dedicate yourself to this program and do your best you will have all the tools you need to pursue your dream of becoming a firefighter.”  

Stephen says he looks forward to a 30-year career as a firefighter and is committed to continued learning and education. “Being part of the fire service there’s never an end to your education. I want to continue to improve my skills and be the best firefighter I can be.”