Olathe program prepares next generation of first responders

Posted at 5:08 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 19:22:27-04

OLATHE, Kan. — As the school year wraps up at Olathe West High School, so is the first year of the Public Safety Academy.

"I want to just help protect the streets of Kansas City," Libbie Winkleman, a freshman, said.

Winkleman and her friend, Kamri Brooks, are among 75 students who are interested in pursuing a career as a firefighter, EMT, or in law enforcement.

"When I was going into the program, a lot of people were surprised. They didn't think I wanted to go into law enforcement," Brooks told 41 Action News.

From its inception, the academy has had strong community partnerships.

Members of the Olathe police and fire departments sit on the advisory board and mentor students.

"Those connections are going to help these students in the future gain employment in those agencies," Jeff Van Dyke, one of the instructors, said.

Nathan Barthol, whose parents work for the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, realizes the realities of his future profession in the current climate.

"People are watching our shoulders. If we make a mistake, just like that, it really ruins your life, so we have to be able to properly train and practice, practice, practice over and over again," Barthol said.

"By the time they get to their academy when they're in their early 20s, they'll have more background in officer safety, investigative skills, and also how to deal with the public," Van Dyke said.

They're also equipping these young men and women with practical skills.

"Really how to be a better leader, how to listen, and all these skills, even if you're not going into--if you decide after this academy that you don't want to be a first responder, you still need these life skills," Barthol said.

For more information on the Public Safety Academy, visit: