THIBODAUX, La. (WGNO) — Nicholls State University offers a unique opportunity for students to save lives.

From Louisiana locals to Pelican State transplants, students can answer the call as part of the college’s Student Firefighter Association, in conjunction with the Thibodaux Fire Department. The program is designed with volunteer firefighters in mind, teaching what it means to step up and serve a community.

Former fire chief Randy Pate with says the goal is simple.

“To introduce volunteer firefighting to these students who have never been a part of it, or even know what to do,” Pate explained.

The students respond to all types of calls, from house fires to medical emergencies and everything in between.

“I got a text from my old babysitter that said ‘My bad, I was frying chicken and I burnt it. Sorry about that,'” student David Lockwood explained.

Pre-med student Valeria Vargas is finding joy in keeping the city of Thibodaux safe.

“It can be in the middle of the night or random at 12 a.m., and you have to go help someone,” Vargas tells WGNO’s Kenny Lopez. “There’s beauty in that.”

Not all fires they fight are infernos, but regardless, they show up.

“They let you drive a truck and use chainsaws, so I signed up, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Vargas said. “You’re always there for the community if they need you.”

“They put their heart and soul into this fire service because it’s not a job, it’s something they volunteer to do and that makes it great in this area,” Pate explained.

There are about 12 active students involved in the program, and the SFA is even expanding to high schools. So far, nearly 40 students have gone through the program in its five-year history.

You can catch these firefighters and more at the Thibodaux Firemen’s Fair beginning May 4. See our full fair guide here.

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