Angelina College Fire Academy Graduates Class 24-61


Ten New Firefighters Exit Stage Ready to Serve

Angelina College’s Fire Academy earlier this week graduated 10 new firefighters in a ceremony held inside AC’s Hudgins Hall, with those cadets wrapping up the grueling 16-week course in style – including a traditional bagpipe escort.  

John Rawls leads the Angelina College Fire Academy cadets’ processional with a traditional bagpipe performance during Monday’s graduation. Ten future fire fighters from Class 24-61 received their recognition in a ceremony held inside Hudgins Hall Auditorium on the AC campus. (Gary Stallard/AC News Service photo)

Micah Snow was named Most Outstanding Cadet in a vote from his peers, and Jeremy Schaeffer earned valedictorian honors, edging classmate Kevin Barnes by one-tenth of a point.

Jeremy Schaeffer, valedictorian for the Angelina College Fire Academy’s Class 24-61, addresses his classmates and the crowd during Monday’s ceremony. Ten future fire fighters received recognition for having completed the challenging 16-week academy. (Gary Stallard/AC News Service photo)

Schaeffer acknowledged the instruction he and his classmates received over their four months of work.

“We’ve had an excellent group of instructors who pushed us mentally and physically to recognize strengths we never knew existed in each of us,” Schaeffer said. “Each one of them brought something different to the field.”

The keynote speaker, Chief Michael Self of the Nacogdoches Fire Department, reminded the new fire fighters they path they’ve chosen is far more than an employment opportunity. It is, he said, a true calling.

Keynote speaker Chief Michael Self of the Nacogdoches Fire Department address the cadets and crowd during Monday’s Angelina College Fire Academy Graduation ceremony inside Hudgins Hall. The 10 future fire fighters received recognition for having completed the challenging 16-week academy. (Gary Stallard/AC News Service photo)

“This is not a small accomplishment,” Self told the cadets. “You’ve made an amazing career choice. Choosing to join the fire service is not something one takes lightly, especially considering what you’ve endured over the 16 weeks of this academy.”

Self went on to state the three keys to a successful career in fire service: First, never stop learning and “educating yourself.”

“Anyone who decides on this career because they think they won’t have to go to school any more is mistaken,” Self said. “Technology and practices change constantly. There are things I learned years ago that are no longer useful. There will always be more opportunities to grow and hone your craft.”

Next, Self said, is “self-care.”

“I encourage you to take care of your mind and body,” Self said. “This career is taxing on both. You’ll see things that are entertaining and interesting, but you’ll also see things that burden you. Take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.”

Most importantly, Self told the cadets, was to remember the “Why?”

“You have to remember why you did this,” Self said. “Learn and take care of yourself, but always remember why you decided to do this. You don’t go into this as a job. It’s a calling, and you need to remember you’re doing this because you care for people. If that’s not your root reason for being here, you’ll burn out quickly and you won’t be successful.”

The new graduates, along with their home towns of record, were as follows:            

Kevin J. Barnes (Nacogdoches, TX), Lucas A. Coker (Nacogdoches, TX), Franklin D. Fogarty (Longview, TX), Gustavo A. Garcia (Lufkin, TX), Christian F. Jernigan (Garrison, TX), Peter D. Maskunas (Diboll, TX), Seth M. Miller (Kennewick, WA), Riley W. Morgan (Broaddus, TX), Jeremy V. Schaeffer (Nacogdoches, TX) and Micah D. Snow (Burnet, TX).

Academy staff members include Doug Conn, Director of Public Safety Training Fire/Law Enforcement; Jason Pope, Coordinator, Fire Academy; Shawn Dillon, Assistant Coordinator, Fire Academy; and Kim Capps, Administrative Assistant.

Academy instructors were Jason Pope, AC Fire Academy; Shawn Dillon, Nacogdoches Fire Dept.; Jody Chandler, Nacogdoches FD.; Jeff Barker, Needham FD; Adam Inman, Porter FD; Robert Ford, Texas Dept. of Emergency Management (TDEM); Larry Tutt, Lufkin FD; Anthony Holcombe, Lufkin FD; Mason King, Nacogdoches FD: Jason Tobias, Nacogdoches FD; and Ashley Jowell, Angelina College Police Department.

For further information regarding the Angelina College Fire Academy, contact Jason Pope at  

For information regarding this press release and photos, contact Gary Stallard at

Gary Stallard
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games. Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.

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