The Student News Site of Grant Community High School

The Bark

The Student News Site of Grant Community High School

The Bark

The Student News Site of Grant Community High School

The Bark

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Breaking Free

Escaping the influence of others and embracing the unknown
Breaking+Free

The four years a person spends in high school is typically the period of time when they are most impressionable. Friend groups and cliques are extremely influential over high school students, they can change the path of a students
life. For Seniors Kai Calacci and Xander Schlaeger, this is very true. Throughout their high school years they have made plenty of mistakes through the influence of others; however, they have shifted their focus onto their next chapter early. They are going to become Smoke Jumpers.

Smoke jumping is the practice of combining skydiving and firefighting, jumping from planes into wildfires, risking their lives with the hope of saving another. The road to becoming a Smoke Jumper is mentally and physically exhausting. They must go through intense training and pass a test, the pack test. The pack test is a 3-mile hike in which the participant must carry a 45-pound pack, completing the task in 45 minutes or
less. This test has no leeway with its scoring; you either pass or fail. This influenced Kai and Xander to begin their journey back to their everyday lives, due to the physical needs of Smoke Jumping. However, this is not the only reason they became interested in this outlandish path. Xander had decided that another reason he wanted to become a Smoke Jumper was to join his mom, who had already been Smoke Jumping in Alaska. Xander and Kai will be spending their summer training in preparation to also be stationed in Alaska.

Smoke Jumping comes with many benefits, such as housing, meals, government pension, and life insurance since they will be working for the government. Kai thinks “it is a great way to ease [them] into adulthood” due to these benefits. However, like everything else in life, these benefits come with a cost. Both Xander and Kai have to leave behind almost the entirety of their social lives, including friends, family, and other close relationships they may have built. In addition to this, both young men have to sacrifice their sleep schedules. Much like firefighters, Smoke Jumpers are on call all hours of the day, meaning any time there is a wildfire, an alarm will go off, signaling them to get ready and that they are needed even in the middle of the night. Although these sacrifices may seem dire to many, Xander and Kai have found ways to work around these challenges. Since Smoke Jumpers only work eight months out of the year, they planned on taking those remaining four months to catch up on sleep and spend time with those they had left behind. Through theses sacrifices, Xander and Kai became real life superheroes.

 

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About the Contributor
Dakota Cleaver
Dakota Cleaver, Assistant Editor in Chief
Hey y'all! My name is Dakota Cleaver and I am a junior(class 2025). I joined journalism looking for a writing outlet and a way to make friends which is exactly what I found. Journalism has played such an important role in my life. At first I thought this was just a class where I learned how to write but now that I'm here, it's so much more. Journalism has provided me with a safe space to not only work but to express who I am. (thanks to Maestranzi) One fun fact about me is about once a month I race ATV's.

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