Angelina College Fire Academy Graduates Class 24-61

Ten New Firefighters Exit Stage Ready to Serve


AC News Service

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.  

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.

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 the path they’ve chosen is far more than an employment opportunity. It is, he said, a true calling. 

“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

Photo captions:

Group photo:

Members of the Angelina College Fire Academy Class 24-61 pose prior to this week’s ceremony held inside AC’s Hudgins Hall Auditorium. The 10 future fire fighters received recognition for having completed the challenging 16-week academy. (Gary Stallard/AC News Service photo)

Keynote Speaker Chief Michael Self:

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)

Valedictorian Jeremy Schaeffer:

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)

John Rawls Bagpipes:

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)