Commentary: Scouting his way to firefighting

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It is astonishing to see high-schoolers bettering their communities through Eagle Scout projects. Most teenagers do not involve themselves with volunteer work, especially since it is not required for high-school graduation anymore. It is because of this that I felt the necessity to recognize a few of the Eagle Scouts from the Long Beach area in my previous article.

Antonio Jorgensen, 18, my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years, was a Boy Scout (BSA) on a journey to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. It had always been a goal of his, but it was not until his junior year of high school that he got serious about it.

Photo by Carmen Valdes
Antonio, pictured receiving his Eagle Scout award

I didn’t drive him to meetings or provide financial support during his time as a Boy Scout, but I have always been his emotional support throughout the past few years. Antonio had to finish all the Eagle Scout requirements before he turned 18, and that placed a huge amount of stress on him, because he was running out of time. As his girlfriend, I was going to be proud of him even if he never became an Eagle Scout. Antonio’s hard work and dedication toward accomplishing his goals in life is already impressive enough. If Antonio did not gain the rank of Eagle Scout, I knew I would never hear the end of it. So, every night, I prayed to God. The reason why Antonio was running out of time is because he was trying to juggle college, his firefighting-related activities, hanging out with friends, spending time with me and volunteering, all on top of trying to complete the Eagle Scout requirements. One of my suggestions to him was to stop using social media until he finished the requirements. He did just that for about two months.

“It was definitely hard to not be connected, because I was worried somebody would try to contact me on there [social media], and I would not be able to respond,” Antonio said. “But, I got used to it. It was tough to do, but not having social media around allowed me to focus on finishing Boy Scouts.”

I have not been a helpful or productive girlfriend at all times. I tried to take a nap in Antonio’s car during one of his BSA meetings. He needed a signature to complete one of his merit badges, something that intruded on our dinner plans that night. I waited in the car, but, sadly, I forgot to bring reading material. So, instead, I closed my eyes for like five minutes, and then I heard a knock on the window. Antonio and his BSA buddies were staring at me.

“I care about the skills [of BSA], because they are really important, and they apply to all aspects of life,” Antonio said. “The Scout Law is a guideline of how a scout must live their daily life. For example, one of the guidelines is to be courteous and kind to others. It is important to me to be a helpful and loving person to others, and BSA has helped shape me in that way.”

Photo by Wilson Pacheco
Antonio leading volunteers to make wooden signs for the Long Beach FIrefighters Museum.

Many of the skills that Antonio learned from BSA transferred over to firefighting. He sees himself becoming a firefighter in the future. Antonio gained skills with leadership, time management and organization.

Firefighters have to be a leader to civilians and to their co-workers. They have to understand the importance of urgency. According to Antonio, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout “is another step on the road to becoming a firefighter. It has given me the skills and traits that will help me when I become a firefighter.”

For Antonio’s Eagle Scout project, he chose to help his favorite group in the community, which are firefighters, by creating a guidebook and labeling wooden signs for the Long Beach Firefighter’s Museum, which is located in the old Long Beach Fire Department Station #10. The wooden signs aid visitors with the layout of the building, and the guidebook gives insight about the most significant firefighting items inside the museum.

At the age of 16, Antonio started volunteering at the museum every Wednesday and every second Saturday of the month. One of the projects the museum wanted to complete was a guidebook, so he did it for them.

On Nov. 28, Antonio’s mother, Carmen Valdes, and I were chatting up a storm, as we waited for Antonio at the church where the Long Beach Area Council does its Eagle Board of Review.

“I was anxious, because I had to sit in front of a review board of two to three people,” he said. “They were going to ask me questions on my whole career as a scout and about my Eagle project. It was kind of nerve-racking, but it was also exciting, because that was the day I was going to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.”

Antonio started off as a Cub Scout with Pack 21 and joined Troop 21 as a Boy Scout. He aged out of BSA and became an Eagle Scout from Troop 74 during the Board of Review.

With the completion of Eagle Scout, Antonio is able to focus on getting his associate’s degree in business administration at Long Beach City College (LBCC), being a certified Los Angeles County Fire Explorer (LACoFD) and an active member of Long Beach Search and Rescue (SAR). He graduated last year from the LACoFD Academy on June 30 and the SAR Academy on Feb. 27.

“I like firefighting because it is such a dynamic job,” Antonio said. “There is always going to be a new situation and new people to help. The best thing is knowing you are someone’s hope on their worst day. With a desk job, you will likely be sitting down and doing the same work every day. Firefighting doesn’t feel like work, because your co-workers are your second family. It is a different type of bond between co-workers than at a desk job, because you eat, sleep and fight fire together.”

Antonio is currently a freshman at LBCC, but he plans to transfer to a UC for his bachelor’s degree to help assist his career as a firefighter. This upcoming summer, he will take EMT classes at either the University of California, Los Angeles, or at Cal Institute of EMT, which is in Signal Hill. He hopes to become an ocean lifeguard for Los Angeles County.

He has always known that he wants to become a firefighter. Antonio loves firefighting so much that he does not want to have a plan B. If only you saw his bedroom, which is covered head to toe in everything firefighter-related. Even his wardrobe only consists of shorts and T-shirts containing the word “fire.”

I am terrified of fire. When I am at a bonfire or near a candle, I keep my distance. Antonio always tries to convince me to become a firefighter, because he says it is a fun job, and he wants to spend as much time together as we can. It is a good thing I am dating him, because if our future house burns down, I can just call Antonio and say, “Honey, the house is on fire! I need you to come home and fix it!”