Proud family members celebrate graduation of most diverse Boston Fire Academy class in years
Kevin Cuervels remembers growing up around the Quincy fire station and hearing how his father saved lives as a firefighter.
On Monday, it was his turn to take the oath and serve as a firefighter, after he graduated from the Boston Fire Academy to join the ranks of the Boston Fire Department. “It runs in my family,” Cuervels, 26, said. “It’s something I look up to; it’s what I grew up with.”
He also was in the Navy for six years.
Cuervels was one of 64 new firefighters to graduate from the academy — 60 will continue into Boston and four will join the Weymouth Fire Department.
After 21 weeks of lessons, testing, and physical training, the graduates were joined by their families and city officials at Florian Hall in Dorchester, where loved ones or friends pinned their badges on them.
The class — referred to as the Valentine’s Day class, since they started training on Feb. 14 — was the most diverse class since Mayor Martin J. Walsh took office in 2014, he told reporters after the ceremony. He said that 27 percent are people of color.
Most of the graduates are also military veterans, according to the Fire Department.
“The many weeks of studying and drilling on Moon Island are finally over, and now the real-world training begins,” Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told the class, later adding that “a lot will be expected of you, and in return you have the privilege of being called Boston firefighters.”
Cuervels’s family connection to firefighting doesn’t stop with his father. His grandfather, Arthur Cuervels, was also a Boston firefighter. He died in the line of duty in 1973, when his firetruck crashed on an ice-covered street.
“Ever since then, that’s been a main focus of our family,” said Cuervels’s father, retired Quincy Fire Department lieutenant Jerry Ceurvels, who pinned his son’s badge at Monday’s ceremony.
Several other graduates, such as Sheldon Mercer, also have family ties to the occupation. Mercer’s father and uncle are both firefighters, he said.
“When I step outside, it’s about helping,” said Mercer, a former EMT and four-year airman for the Air Force. “I love the city, give everything for it.”
Mercer, 30, of Dorchester, said he is most looking forward to enjoying the camaraderie with his fellow firefighters.
The Fire Department made a special effort this year to recruit firefighters who speak other languages, including Spanish and Haitian Creole, to better communicate with the city’s residents, Walsh said.
Graduating firefighter Marco Molina Jr., who is Puerto Rican, noted the need for a diverse force.
“There aren’t as many Spanish-speaking firefighters as other jobs, so taking the time to at least diversify . . . it’s definitely a huge step, especially with a growing city like this,” he said.
Molina, a Marine Corps veteran, also grew up with a father who was a firefighter.
“Just being in the atmosphere and the firefighter environment really attracted me. It’s every kid’s dream to be a firefighter,” the 23-year-old said. “It feels amazing. It’s like I won the lottery.”