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Roseburg High School senior Kurt Phillips plans on attending Umpqua Community College in the fall to take classes in the fire science program and the paramedics program.

Roseburg High School senior, Kurt Phillips, is a planner – a student who worked at getting all his ducks in a row during high school, and before entering the real world of college and a career.

As a freshman in high school, Phillips was drafted into the SkillsUSA program with the prospects of a career in engineering. The program is a partnership of students, teachers and industry that promotes learning job skills in order to prepare students for the world of work. SkillsUSA provides educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the national classroom, according to its mission statement.

Phillips, 18, said throughout the program, everyone works together and helps each other out. SkillsUSA includes a state competition each year, after school meetings, field trips, networking and internships.

“The program prepares the kids with the skills they need, and prepares them for what it would be like in the industry,” said Phillips. He said the program made him a lot more confident in his abilities as a person and a worker.

“I think that there is a huge pressure with kids when they enter the job field about messing up, instead of being able to enjoy the work they are doing,” said Phillips. “This gives kids the work experience they can put on their resumes, and they are ready to step into the field,” he added.

For Phillips, the program landed him an internship with North River Boats where he said he learned a lot about working with people and problem solving.

“The internship was really fun and a great experience,” he said.

But it was that internship that turned this planner into a risk taker.

After years of working toward engineering, Phillips decided to change paths his senior year and seek out a career as a firefighter and EMT.

“My internship helped me realize that it’s not what I really wanted to do the rest of my life – just sit behind a desk. I want to go out and help people more,” said Phillips.

The graduate said he always thought firefighting was “cool,” but decided to pursue another interest — engineering. After many years of experience and planning toward engineering, Phillips was brave enough to admit it wasn’t the right fit for him.

“I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as being a firefighter,” he said. “I wanted to at least try doing the firefighting because if I don’t do it now, I won’t get another chance.”

Taking that chance, Phillips said, made his family a bit skeptical at first because it seemed like a very quick and drastic change that came late in school, but soon they were all on board with the decision. “My family is very supportive,” he said.

That support is what Phillips also wants to show his community. He said it was not long after the Umpqua Community College shooting on Oct. 1, 2014, that moved him toward switching career paths. “The shooting helped me realize I wanted to do (firefighting) because when something like that happens, I couldn’t do anything and I felt like I needed to. I wanted to. It was very eye-opening,” he said.

Already taking EMT classes, Phillips is enrolled at Umpqua Community College and will begin fire and science courses in the fall. He said he is already enjoying the EMT class and is very excited for school and a future in this career. But until then, the grad plans on a very relaxing summer with friends.

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Douglas County Family Editor | Special Sections Editor

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