The Student Dispatch is a space to highlight the voices of our MACEM&PS students while they’re still studying with us! Topics are chosen by the students in consultation with an advisor, and are only lightly edited – we want this to be authentic to their skills, feelings, and knowledge at the time of writing. Join us, watch them grow, and see what they’ve got to say!
By: Kaleb Kalbflesh
Hello there readers! My name is Kaleb Kalbflesh and I am a work-study student at Frederick Community College (FCC). I am currently working under the MACEM&PS while majoring in Emergency Management. I grew up in the Clear Spring/Hagerstown area and eventually transferred to Washington County Technical High School (WCTHS). WCTHS is a Career and Technical Education school, or CTE for short. At WCTHS I chose the Homeland Security Technologies program (HS), which covers many different subjects in Homeland Security. A question that I’m often asked is, “Kaleb, how does your emergency management college work compare to your high school program?” This is a great question as it allows me to evaluate my experiences and reflect on what I have liked and disliked about each program, so talking about this subject is what I plan on doing today to share my knowledge of both courses. I should note going in that this post will not be a hate train towards either course. Both in my eyes are fantastic for anyone interested in this field and I can not recommend them enough.
HSEP in High School…
Before I get into my CTE program, I must first talk about WCTHS. There were 17 different programs that students could choose from at WCTHS, to work towards a career or skill set for their future. HS was one of them, having been created around six years beforehand, meaning it was still relatively new. (Compare this to Carpentry, which had been around since the start of the school in 1972.) The placement of my program was also interesting as it was in an entirely separate building from the main high school. Luckily we were not the only program in the separate building, having the Criminal Justice and Fire & Rescue Academy with us. Both of these factors helped make this program was unique in having a large space to work and having our own ecosystem of sorts. Working together with other programs would often happen when we would have guest speakers come into our class and talk to us about different fields in both homeland security and criminal justice. In HS itself, we focused on four main subject areas. The areas were Emergency Management (EMGT), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity. So with that all said about the HS program, what were some positives?
In terms of the subject areas, GIS would have to fall into the place of being my favorite even though I am majoring in EMGT (I do see the irony). EMGT had the most in-depth courses, along with homeland security as both of those areas usually intersected with each other. Some of the more interesting activities and assignments we did were tabletop exercises, case studies, and FEMA Independent Study courses. For someone interested in the field, all of these were extremely captivating, offering multiple interactive activities to participate in. There were also some extracurricular activities that our HS teacher helmed, such as a drone club and a 911 training course that allowed students to earn their 911 certifications in Fire, Medical, and Police. I took part in both of these extracurricular activities, and both are now highlights of my high school career. At the core of this CTE program was my teacher, who was essential in my own and my classmate’s engagement with the course material. He was the glue that held the program together, being the original teacher of the program for WCTHS, which made it so much easier to learn as he was truly there for the students and helping them with their futures.
WCTHS was an amazing experience for me; however, there were still some areas for improvement in our CTE program that should be evaluated and assessed. First, while HS allowed the students to see multiple different areas in the main field of Homeland Security, this created a “Master of None” type of system. This system made it so one particular area of the course could not be fully worked on without overshadowing another, simply because of the amount of time allowed in class and how WCTHS set up their days, being an every other day type system for our school. For example, GIS would sometimes be overshadowed by EMGT or vice versa. Another factor about our course is that there is no rigid structure on how to do most things, as we would be given a list of things to do in a day or week and then be allowed to do them in any order that we wanted. This type of system worked out most of the time, but there would be certain subject matters that our teacher would have to help us with, slowing down the entire process. COVID also became a problem during the end of our 11th-grade year and the beginning of our 12th-grade year. COVID was a universal problem for all facets of life, so this is not held against the program, but it must be said that it did impact both our rate of efficiency and our enjoyment of the program being behind a screen rather than in the classroom working.
…EM at College
My college experience in emergency management so far, on the other hand, has been an interesting one as it has been behind a screen for the entirety of it. (I can’t provide an overview of the entire program over two years because I have only taken three different courses under the Track II pathway). The three emergency management classes that I have/am currently taking are “Disaster Response & Recovery,” “Federal Emergency Management,” and “Hazard, Risk, and Mitigation.” Each course has introduced me to new ideas in the field that I have never thought about before. The in-depth study of specific areas is one of the biggest strengths of FCC’s emergency management program. While this should be true in any college course, what elevates this in-depth learning is the conversations with your classmates through discussion boards. Reading what other people have to say about an emergency management subject provides great insight on both the subject and how other people can interpret it. What is even better is when the teacher will discuss and talk to you about the subject to make sure that you are getting the best information from the discussion. It is difficult to be left behind on any subject as the teachers will always support you in trying to further your education in emergency management.
But just like with WCTHS, while FCC does provide a great learning environment for the students, there will always be things that could be worked on. In my experience, the workload is sometimes not varied enough to hold my attention. In one of my emergency management classes, the weekly assignment is the discussion board which I previously described, and it is a great assignment. The problem is that it is usually the only assignment for that week aside from possibly a quiz. I can see in myself and other students that this format gets boring after a while, which leads to less engagement. There are other assignments, including making a Youtube video of yourself; however, these are much later and singular events over the 15-week course. I feel that there could be other assignments in the class that would be more engaging in the material than only discussion posts.
Both of the programs are phenomenal in their own right, providing different required skills for the intended audience. A high school program is going to be more generalized in its material to give the students plenty of opportunities to look at all aspects. A college program will focus on a particular major and be more hands-off in its approach. My high school program will always be important to me as it is where I started my emergency management journey. That program also gave me many lifelong friends that I will hold dearly for the rest of my life. At the same time, I would not trade away the experience that I have gained from my college courses. The courses have allowed me to contextualize a ton of the previous subjects that I have covered. Each one has been an amazing stepping stone towards a career in emergency management, allowing me every opportunity to further my career and experiences.
Kaleb Kalbflesh is currently a student in the Track II Emergency Management AAS program at Frederick Community College, and a work-study student in the MACEM&PS offices for the Spring 2022 semester. He is a graduate of Washington County Technical High School, where he completed the Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness CTE program and earned certifications as an emergency medical, fire, and police dispatcher.