BRADENTON -- The Fire Science Academy of Manatee Technical College graduated class No. 27 on Saturday at the main campus.
The Manatee County Honor Guard led the processional of 15 graduates: Daniel Akoghlananian, Rebecca Durham, John Finnan, Isaac Haseley, Danny Jason, Robert Kohlmeier, Andrew Krueger, Evan Moore, Charlie Otero, Alex Pollitt, Marco Rivera, Jeff Rivera, Jeff Robinson, Riley Thornton, Brandon Tinyes, and Ryan Walker.
Keynote speaker Ed Cleveland, a retired West Manatee Fire Rescue chief, told the graduates: "Some of the most important things you'll learn are from those who have been on the job for 10, 15, 20 years."
For the first time in the academy's history, five graduates had perfect attendance: Akoghlanian, Jason, Krueger, Moore and Robinson.
The firefighter program is 600 clock hours at MTC East.
Krueger also earned the top academic award for a 98.05 percent grade-point average.
Rivera earned the physical agility award for completing the combat challenge in 3 minutes, 6 seconds -- students must complete the challenge in 9 minutes. He was also recognized for the highest GPA in EMT.
The practical skills award went to Jason.
Krueger also was presented with a scholarship award from the Suncoast Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Leatherheads, a firefighter organization focused on bravery, camaraderie and pride. Garett Lindgren Sr., retired from the New York City Fire Department, presented the honor. He said he first met the Suncoast FOOLS when they arrived at his company immediately after 9/11.
Lindgren urged the graduates: "Don't take a second of your career for granted."
Debbie Wendt presented scholarships to graduates and combat veterans Haseley and Kohlmeier in remembrance of her brother, Donnie Wendt, a 2001 graduate of the academy and Bronze Star recipient who died a casualty of war in 2014. Krueger and Otero were also recognized as veterans.
Manatee County School Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter and board members Bob Gause and David Miner and Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene shook hands with each graduate as they received their certificates.
"It is personally gratifying to me to see you graduate," Greene said, according to a press release. "My brother is also a firefighter EMT paramedic."
Carpenter added: "This community will be stronger and safer because of your commitment."
The MTC Fire Science Academy is approved by the Florida Bureau of Fire Standards and Training. Passing the firefighter program and passage of the state certification examination are statutory requirements to be employed as a firefighter in Florida. The MTC Fire Academy pass rate on the state certification exam is 94 percent.