Sherman launches Bearcats Fire Crew program

Michael Hutchins, Herald Democrat
Skyla Richardson, center left, stands with members of Sherman Fire-Rescue and her father, Keither Burgos, left. Richardson was chosen to ride to school Tuesday on the fire truck as part of the Bearcats Fire Crew program. [courtesy photo]

A group of Sherman students will be riding to school in style for the final week of school thanks to Sherman Fire-Rescue. The department is partnering with the Sherman Independent School District for the new Bearcat Fire Crew program, which will reward elementary students for good grades and conduct in the classroom.

“It is just icing on the cake for us to be able to do fun stuff like this,” Sherman Fire Marshal Billy Hartsfield said.

Hartsfield said the department started talk of offering rides to students who do well in school in December during a bicycle giveaway. From there, organizers decided to focus the first year of the program on fourth grade students and hold the first rides in the spring.

Kimberly Simpson, director of communications for Sherman ISD, said she liked the idea as it helped outside groups and organizations interact and be involved with district activities. As a relative newcomer to the region, she said it also exposed her to these organizations.

For the first year of the program, fourth grade elementary school teachers were able to nominate five students based on academic progress, leadership, citizenship and other criteria. Then, each elementary school principal drew a name for the student who would be offered a ride to school on one of the fire department’s vehicles. Each campus has one winner, Simpson said.

Skyla Richardson was selected to win the chance to ride on the fire truck for Jefferson Elementary thanks to her studies and grades. While she enjoyed the trip Tuesday morning, she said she was embarrassed about it at first.

“I was kind of excited when I found out, but kind of nervous because everyone was laughing,” she said, referring to her classmates.

Despite her concerns, those classmates gathered outside the school to greet her when she arrived Tuesday.

Simpson said she is uncertain about the future of the program, but would like to see it become a yearly event. It could be possible to expand it to have two events each year, with one each semester.

“I am pretty sure the fire department would drop off kids every day if they could,” she said.