Firefighter students find purpose and partnership at Lakeland

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November 24, 2020
Lakeland's latest firefighter training graduates overcame more than a tough course load as they worked to keep each other safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Industrial run
The start date delays, health and safety protocols and uncertainty just made them more determined to work together to succeed.
Ashlea Suderman grew up wanting to be a firefighter. She didn’t see a lot of female firefighters in her hometown of Redcliff, Alta., but when she moved to a larger city and began to see more women in that role, she realized it could be a career option for her as well.
“When it came time to choose a school, I’d heard really good things about Lakeland,” Suderman explains. “I have friends who’ve come to Lakeland for agriculture or other programs, including the fire program, and they’ve only had good things to say about it. When I was looking to get my training, it seemed the best place to go.”
Classmate Eric Bogart, from London, Ont., was drawn to Lakeland after hearing similarly positive things from Emergency Training Centre alumni.
“I heard from people who had taken it and they said it was top notch training,” he says. “I really couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that.”
Bogart was drawn to a career in firefighting after earning his bachelor degree in biochemistry and working in hospitals like many of his family members did. He’d always thought he’d end up in the same field, but found it didn’t have the team atmosphere he was looking for.
“Being an athlete myself, I’ve always been involved in team sports,” Bogart explains. “My friends who were firefighters said it doesn’t get any closer to a team sport than firefighting. It’s relying on the person next to you while they rely on you too.”
He chose the 12-week on campus option specifically to have more hands-on experience.
“I figured more time on campus would mean jumping in with both feet and fully immersing myself in the whole experience,” Bogart says. “I learn best hands-on and the experience was awesome. They treated us like professionals. We have freedom but also expectations that we stay on task. I don’t have enough good things to say about it.”
The hands-on aspect of a Lakeland education also appealed to Suderman. Without any previous firefighting experience, she felt it was essential to graduate with skills that can only be learned in the field.
“The instructors are great and super informative,” Suderman says. “And the facilities at Lakeland are amazing. We actually got to train with fire, which allowed us to apply the theory of what we were learning to the field. That was my favourite part of being at Lakeland.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the delayed start of the program, the risk of losing access to that essential hands-on learning component was especially worrisome to Bogart and Suderman.
According to Suderman though, this only served to make them more determined to take the health and safety protocols seriously when they were allowed on campus.
“Lakeland did a good job of keeping us safe,” she says. “My classmates and I were really aware of how important it was to keep each other safe. None of us were willing to take any risks that might mean cutting our experience short.”
Bogart agrees, saying, “It’s a huge testament to everyone here that during a pandemic, we were able to persevere through it, come out here and get the job done. We were able to keep everyone safe and have a really good time doing it.”
The experience served to bring the students closer together.
“I feel like I’ll be good friends with some of the people I went through this program with for a long time. We’re always going to check up on each other throughout our careers,” Suderman says.
For Bogart, he found exactly what he was looking for at Lakeland.
“When you’re on the field fighting fires, you feel a sense of purpose. This is exactly what I want to be doing with my life.”
(Photos: Top - Students Ashlea Suderman and Eric Bogart go beyond the classroom as they join their classmates for hands-on industrial firefighting. Middle - Ashlea Suderman in her firefighting gear. Bottom - Eric Bogart prepares for the exercise.)

What Students Say
With the Student-Managed Farm you learn to be accountable for what you’re doing and the choices you make. You get an understanding of what it’s like to be out in industry or on a farm making decisions that count.

– Anthony Biglieni

Agribusiness Class of 2006

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College has been a integral partner in growing our own through the school of business. As an alumnus of the college, I have first-hand learning experience in the school of business. The professors welcome Servus Credit Union to facilitate classes in the Business Ethics course each year.

– Sandi Unruh

Senior Human Resources Consultant

What Faculty & Staff Say
Vertex has had great experience bringing on students from Lakeland College. We have found the Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) program to provide students with good academic knowledge of the environmental industry and the criteria that governs the land reclamation

– Sean Fuller B.Sc., P.Ag.

Vice President, Environmental Services, Vertex.

What Alumni Say
There is no way I would be where I am today without Lakeland College. It inspired me to be a better person and to get a job in something I love doing. I am so thankful I had such a great experience at Lakeland and I hope future students do as well.

– Danielle Gaboury

Business studies, Class of 2016.

What Students Say
I recommend the UT program to people all the time. The smaller setting Lakeland offers, is very conducive to learning. It's less intimidating than the larger universities and allows for more class interactions and discussions

– Kelly Mykytuk

2nd year UT student, 2017-18

What Alumni Say
Choosing to attend Lakeland College was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life so far. The welcoming and friendly Lakeland environment encourages a place of excellence, and fosters the ability to be successful not only in school, but in life.

– Mariah Van’t Hof

University Transfer, Class of 2015

What Alumni Say
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– Payton Ramstead

Class of 2016, Interior Design student.

What Alumni Say
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– Alisa Brace

Animal Health Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
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– Grayden Kay

Animal Science & Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College was a learning environment unlike any other school. It allows students to learn beyond the classroom, and staff and faculty genuinely want to see students succeed. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable asking questions and where everyone has a place and fits in.

– Carson Reid

Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The instructors were the highlight of my time at Lakeland. It made a huge impact on my college experience to have instructors who challenged, encouraged, and believed in me.

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Child & Youth Care, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
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What Alumni Say
I just feel like you get the best education at Lakeland, especially from the time that the instructors can actually spend with you. I like the class sizes too – everything’s been great about my Lakeland experience.

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What Alumni Say
I do give Lakeland College credit for reigniting my interest and even preparing me for Miss Rodeo Canada. Lakeland helped me to grow enough to have the confidence to think I could take on that role and become that person. I think that I have and I am really grateful for that

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Agribusiness, class of 2014, former Miss Rodeo Canada.

What Alumni Say
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– Stephen Mark Visser

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What Alumni Say
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– Lucas Tetreault

HOPE Power Engineering, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
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– Donald James Shaw

Accounting Major, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
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– Courtnee Coolidge

Esthetician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The professors care so much about their students at Lakeland and are able to know each and every one of them by name, so much so that they are able to nominate a ton of students for awards.

– Stephanie Wakefeild

University Transfer, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
They really put you in the lead at Lakeland. Lakeland cares about its students, empowers them, and gives them opportunities to achieve their goals. I don’t see Lakeland as a stepping stone or a first step – I see it as a bridge and an integral part of my education.

– Alyssa Wells

University Transfer, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I wanted to get experience in the field of assessment as it would give me exposure to what it’s like day to day. It was an invaluable experience as I find it hard to imagine what it would be like working in a particular field or area until I’m doing the work.

– Sheldon Farrell

Real estate appraisal and assessment, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
In the campus spa, they give you time to work with each client so nothing is rushed and you’re able to concentrate on providing the best service you can to your client.

– Daphney Couturier

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
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– Darby Watchel

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Employers Say
Lakeland is a great place to find employees. The college provides real world training that equips soon-to-be employees with knowledge and people skills that are highly sought after in the agriculture industry these days.

– Dustin Dinwoodie

Key Account Manager – Western Canada Arysta LifeScience

What Alumni Say
The hands-on field trips, quality of education i received, professors who are invested in your success, and all the friends I made. I exceeded my academic expectations and I also had a lot of fun. If i had to do it all over gain, i would choose Lakeland!

– Nicole (Audet) Pysh

Class of 2006, Environmental Protection & Class of 2008, Applied Environmental Degree