Futterman (12): foregoing college, fighting fires

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Owen Heidings

As many seniors step foot into a college classroom for the first time, Liam Futterman (12) will be extinguishing fires in California. The job is a perfect fit for Futterman, who has always wanted to pursue a career that is mission-oriented and has a positive impact on society, he said.

Futterman will work with the Los Angeles Fire Department, one of the largest departments in the United States. He chose to move across the country because he does not want to stay in New York after he graduates. Los Angeles is also convenient for him, as he has family in the city with whom he can live. Since he will live with family members, he will not have to worry about any housing expenses.

Futterman has not yet decided which division of the department he will enter, but he is considering joining the municipal department to quench fires in the urban areas of the city. He is also considering joining the park service department, in which he would put out wildfires.

The prospect of following orders also appeals to Futterman. “I like the idea of knowing why I’m doing something and what it is that I’m doing every day that I go into work,” he said.

Forgoing college to pursue firefighting was an easy choice, he said. “I’ve been having a hard time finding motivation in academics,” he said. “I think about college as an investment in time, money, and energy, and at this moment I do not think it would be a great way to manage my resources. If I find that passion later in life and want to go back to school, that would be a much better use of my time and money,” he said.

Futterman first thought of becoming a firefighter in tenth grade, as he believed it would be an engaging career that would also allow him to learn in a hands-on setting. “It would be a very rewarding job,” he said. “People in the field are very competent and they learn how to critically think through their experiences.” 

Futterman draws a connection between firefighting and wrestling — one of his favorite activities at the school — because he enjoys being part of a team. “I think it would be great to spend time with people in high-stress situations,” he said. Futterman also knows the job will impact his worldview tremendously, he said. “[After] a year or two [I’ll] be seeing the world in all of these cool, different, and intense ways,” he said.

“My whole life I’ve been in school, and I always know exactly what’s going to happen next. Now, I get to be in the world, doing something that isn’t directed.”

Even before he can apply to become a firefighter, Futterman must attain EMT certification, which he will receive at the end of the summer, he said. He then must pass a physical test and a standardized written test, which includes answering questions on topics such as fire science and first aid, for which he has already started preparing. Because of the rigorous work he has done at the school, Futterman is not worried about the exam, he said. He will finally need to complete academy training, which lasts several months, to be able to apply out to stations. 

Many adults in Futterman’s life have tried to dissuade him from this path, he said. Although his parents have an appreciation for jobs in the field of service, they still wanted him to attend college after graduating. As part of an agreement with his parents, he intends to reapply to college in the fall of 2021, although he is unsure whether he will attend.

Since becoming a firefighter is such a long process, Futterman does not imagine himself completing training for months on end to drop the job entirely after receiving college acceptances. If anything, he would want to defer his admission for a year and then reconsider his choices.

Although Futterman is concerned about not knowing when or where he will have to fight fires, he is excited to make a positive difference in the world. “My whole life I’ve been in school, and I always know exactly what’s going to happen next,” he said. “Now, I get to be in the world, doing something that isn’t directed.”