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CLC alum reaches goal of becoming a firefighter

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Jul 13, 2022

Joshua Cardin used to dream about being a firefighter. After spending time in the Coast Guard after high school, he made that dream a reality by enrolling in the Fire Science Technology program at College of Lake County (CLC).

Photo of Joshua Cardin at the fire stationOriginally from Indiana, Cardin spent five years in the Coast Guard. His first assignment was search and rescue in Westport, Washington, before being assigned as a yeoman, someone who works directly with personnel in problem-solving, counseling and answering questions related to career changes, entitlements, incentive programs, retirement and veterans’ benefits, in Cleveland, Ohio.

As he started the job in Cleveland, Cardin thought he might want a career in business after his enlistment. However, office life didn’t suit him well. He decided to try and pursue his interest to become a firefighter.

Though he was still in Ohio, Cardin knew he’d be living in the Lake County area. He was searching for how to become a firefighter in Illinois when he came upon CLC’s fire science webpage.

Soon after, he reached out to Fire Science Department Chair Jeff Howell. It was Howell’s dedication that sold Cardin on attending CLC.

“He showed up to my tour of CLC and afterwards, he talked to me for 30 minutes,” Cardin said. “That was invaluable to me. He wanted to answer all my questions. He even called me after I returned to Ohio.”

Cardin started at CLC in fall 2020 when classes were entirely online. Though he couldn’t meet people in person, he tried to have as many conversations as he could.

He got his first taste of what being a real firefighter was like at the end of the year when they went through an application and interview process similar to the actual hiring process.

Fall 2021 is when he started more hands-on work in the classroom. At CLC, fire science students work with the Grayslake Fire Department Station 2, located on the CLC campus, to gain real-world experience.

The Grayslake Fire Department is a training department, so the staff is used to having firefighters-in-training working with them.

“We embrace them when they come in and treat them as part of the crew,” said Deputy Fire Chief Joris Lillge. “The students do quite a bit around here. They go on call responses and sometimes get small jobs on them to get experience. Around the station, they help check equipment and clean with the crews. They’re as much of a firefighter as they can be at this point in their training.”

Throughout the course of the program, the students also work with firefighters from various departments throughout the area. Cardin enjoyed getting the chance to meet people and create a network to use after graduation.

After graduating this May, Cardin was one of several students selected to work part-time with the Grayslake Fire Department.

Cardin’s plan is to be a full-time firefighter in Lake County, whether it’s with Grayslake or another department. He recently applied for a paramedic program to bolster his skill set.

“While I was in the Coast Guard, I’d take a class here or there online with other colleges. None of them hold a candle to CLC,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how far the college is looking forward and how many opportunities are available for the people of Lake County.”

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.