Rio Hondo Fire Academy Celebrates Class 94 Graduation

Rio Hondo Fire Academy celebrated a pandemic modeled graduation ceremony on July 9, recognizing 36 cadets in Class 94, which adopted the motto, “The First of its Kind” in recognition of the special, pandemic-focused training members received.

The ceremony was held at the College’s Santa Fe Springs academy training grounds with Dean of Public Safety Mark Yokoyama and Fire Academy Director Andrew E. Grzywa joined by six instructors, staff and the cadets, who wore masks and practiced physical distancing during the event.

Class members included three female cadets – the most in 25 years – and two cadets who were offered positions by local fire departments and the U.S. Forestry Service. Most cadets are active EMT workers who were on the front lines of the pandemic fight during their instruction.

“As a group, this class overcame the extreme challenges that not only the fire academy presents, but the hurdles created by a major pandemic,” Grzywa said. The members of Class 94 are strong and ready to serve the public.”

Class 94 was amid instruction when the pandemic forced the switch to online instruction. Academy instructors also added guidance on physical distancing and other safety precautions during firefighting. Students underwent more than 700 hours of training over six months.

One of the graduating cadets, Rogner Jin Park, received the Brent Lovrien Leadership Award and the Stephen J. Masto Top Cadet Award. The leadership award is chosen by the cadets; the top cadet award is based on overall performance on the academy’s five block exams in such areas as vehicle rescue, ladder operations, safety and survival, as well as live-fire training and three physical fitness exams.

Class President Bao-An Nguyen spoke on behalf of her classmates.

“Class 94 stands here today surviving not only the Rio Hondo academy, but also a global pandemic,” said Nguyen, who will work for the Glendale Fire Department. “Let this be a reminder of what we all signed up for. We chose this line of service to save those with unfortunate circumstances. We are public servants.”

She told her classmates that their journey included failures and achievements in different magnitudes as they navigated a world in which the rules “changed by the hour.”

“As Rio Hondo graduates today, we have been provided the tools to create change as we were forced to navigate through change,” she said.

Cadet Austin T. Grego received the class physical fitness award based on her performance on rigorous tests. The class Dedication and Motivation Award, chosen by instructors, was awarded to cadet Ryan Nicholas Mendez.

Graduates also include: Daniel R. Almaraz, Nicholas A. Barajas, Victoria L. Brown (Long Beach Search & Rescue), Dajon Bentley Curtis, Marcus David Delgado, Kyle Adolf Uson Dojillo (class color guard, West Covina Fire Department), Brett L. Eddington, Breana Angel Facundo, Noah Andres Fox (Santa Fe Springs Fire Rescue), Martin Vicente Gaspar, Christopher Gau, Justin Matthew Gibson, Austin T. Grego, Andy Gutierrez, Jeffrey A. Held, Troy H. Le (Montebello Fire Department), Marcus D. Lewis (Yermo-Calico Fire Department), Nathan S. Magdaleno, Francisco Marquez Jr., John Brian Murphy (class vice president), David A. Nuno, Christopher R. Perez, David Khiem Duc Pham, Robert Ramirez, Bret J. Roberts (Santa Fe Springs Fire Rescue), Matthew Mikey Santa Rosa, Nicolas Rene Tovar (class color guard), Matthew Phillip Trujillo, Jared Tucker, Charles T. Tullius (class color guard, Monterey Park Fire Department), Jacob L. Valdez, Justin J. Wright (class color award), Daniel H. Zepeda (class treasurer).