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Teens try on boots of Manteca firefighters
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Oral Nunis was quick to throw his hand up when Manteca firefighter Sterrie Mcleod asked for a volunteer.

Nunis – a member of the Manteca Junior Ambassador Leadership program – was one of nearly two dozen students that had the opportunity to train with members of the Manteca Fire Department as one of their annual activities that allows the students to learn more about the community in which they live.

Little did he know that he’d be using one of the most important tools that firefighters have when it comes to saving lives in an automobile accident.

With his helmet firmly attached and his thick turnouts buckled, Nunis grabbed the hydraulically powered “Jaws of Life” and used the Hurst spreader tool to separate a door that had been sealed shut after a collision. After almost five minutes of work holding and working the heavy machine – with sweat running down his forehead – Nunis successfully popped the door off of the smashed up car.

“I learned today that you have to be in amazing shape to be a firefighter,” Nunis said on Tuesday, still trying to catch his breath from the experience. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into doing what they do. I definitely appreciate what it is that they do for us.”

The program – which is administered through the Manteca Chamber of Commerce – aims to help produce future leaders in the community by educating them about where they live and putting them in touch with both community leaders and civil servants like the firefighters they met on Tuesday.

According to program coordinator Debby Moorhead, opportunities for the kids to get to know some of the local firefighters not only helps open possible future doors in terms of careers, but helps show them a little bit more about who they have working in their community.

“I think that some of the kids will come through here today and they’ll see that maybe this is something that they want to do – and that’s especially true with the young ladies. They came up to me and talked about how hard some of the stuff was, but you could tell how excited they were to do it,” Moorhead said. “We’re so lucky to have a Fire Department like this here in the community that is willing to go out of their way to help our future leaders."