Close this search box.
NFFF Events

2024 High School Fire & EMS Cadet Program Symposium Speakers


Sierra Aulik​

Sierra Aulik

Sierra Aulik started with the Mesa Fire/Medical Department in 2014.  She was promoted to Engineer in 2019, and shortly after completed paramedic school.  Sierra has worked as an ALS Engineer for the past five years and was recently promoted to Captain.  Over the past nine years, she has served as a Recruit Training Officer providing several courses to incoming Firefighter Recruits, an instructor for various mentorship programs, and worked on one of the busiest apparatuses in the City of Mesa serving the downtown area.

Teaching, coaching, and mentorship have always been her great passion.  In her spare time, she participates in multiple recruitment programs that Mesa Fire/Medical has available to high school students interested in public safety.  A couple of these programs include the Aspire Academy and East Valley Regional Fire Cadets.  Sierra also coaches high school girls’ basketball and enjoys activities such as horseback riding and wrangling her one-year-old twin daughters.  She is excited for the opportunity to attend this conference and network with others from around the nation who share the same passion.

Mollie Avelino

Mollie Avelino

Avelino started as an assistant principal at Lake Dallas High in 2012, where she became the school’s associate principal in 2015. Avelino’s educational background includes a master’s in educational administration from Tarleton State University and a bachelor’s in English from State University of New York at Brockport.

She previously worked in Austin ISD for three years supervising English Language Learner programs and a year as an assistant principal in Del Valle ISD.

She worked as a teacher at Denton ISD’s Ryan High, Fossil Ridge High in Keller ISD and North Central Texas College in Corinth.

Jeremy Ayers

Jeremy Ayers

Jeremy is an Apparatus Specialist for the Pflugerville Fire Department and have served since 2020. He is involved in the recruiting, mentorship, peer support, and honor guard team at the department; he is also is a member of the NFFF Fellow Program. He has a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Texas A&M Commerce and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Public Affairs with a concentration in Public Administration at UTRGV.

Jonathan Boyd

Jonathan Boyd

Jonathan Boyd became Allen’s Fire Chief on August 4, 2018. Before becoming Chief, he served as the department’s Assistant Chief of Operations since 2012. Chief Boyd brings extensive education and experience to the role– he has been involved in the fire service for over 25 years and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas, Dallas.

Steph Brown

Steph Brown

Stephanie (Steph) Brown is a 24-year veteran of the Fire/EMS service with 17 of those years on the career side of Fire/EMS. In 2017, she took over as the training lieutenant at the local vocational school teaching the Fire/EMS course for high school students. It was during this time that she saw the value in recruiting young personnel to the Fire/EMS service. She continues to mentor several of her former students as they begin their career or volunteer in the Fire/EMS field. As a Fire/EMS instructor assigned to the school program, she has been awarded numerous awards in the school system as being a mentor to the students. After attending the very first NFFF High School Fire and EMS Cadet Symposium she saw the importance of bringing the various programs back to her department to utilize in her classes. She also assists her department’s Fire and Life Safety Division during presentations at schools, civic organizations, etc. in recruiting new members to the Fire/EMS field whether as a volunteer or as a career.

John Bryant

John Bryant

Captain Bryant works with LDHS through the North Central Texas College and teaches Fire Science and EMS to Juniors and Seniors. His 18 years of experience as a Lake Cities Firefighter give him firsthand industry knowledge that helps prepare our Falcons for careers in this field.

Michelle Denton

Michelle Denton

Michelle Denton started with the Mesa Fire Department in 2004 with the Public Education division where she worked for three years and had the pleasure of managing over 100 volunteers and implementing injury prevention programs. In 2007, she completed the Fire Academy.  Michelle then worked as a BLS Firefighter for five years, then promoted to Engineer, where she remained for five years.  During her time as an Engineer, Michelle completed paramedic school and shortly after, she was promoted to Captain.  In February 2021, Michelle was promoted to Battalion Chief.  Since her BC promotion, Michelle has managed four divisions:  Emergency Management, the Public Information Office division, returning to the field as a responding BC for several months before moving into the Emergency Medical Services division where she spent 2.5 years.  She is now back in the field as a responding BC over 7 stations, 8 fire crews, 3 ambulances and an airport!

Over 20 years with Mesa Fire & Medical, Michelle has achieved several accomplishments:

  • Valley Women’s Firefighter Society member
  • COVID-19 POD Supervisor, delivering over 65,000 vaccines in approximately 5 months
  • EMS Division Chief, managing 9 excellent FT staff members, and overseeing the MFMD Regional Paramedic Program.
  • Aspire Academy core leadership team, still going strong 9 years later!

Thankful for a long career with MFMD so far, Michelle has had such a great support system along her journey and is grateful to be presenting this information about the Aspire Academy in Detroit, so that we can impress upon our smart, strong, capable young women, that the fire service is an inviting and rewarding career.

David Emanuel

Dave Emanuel

Dave Emanuel is a career Fire Chief in Durham, New Hampshire, serving the Town of Durham, NH, and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) with over 30 years of career and volunteer fire and EMS experience. He is an instructor for the NH Fire Academy, and is professionally credentialed as a Chief Fire Officer by the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, holds a BA and an MA from the University of New Hampshire, and is a licensed professional engineer.  He has served as a Commissioner for the Commission for Professional Credentialing of the CPSE, on the Board of Directors for IAFC’s  Safety, Health, and Survival Section (SHSS), and on the Executive Boards of the New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs and Seacoast Chiefs Fire Officer Mutual Aid District. He has worked with the IAFC Bullying Behavior Prevention Taskforce since 2017 and chaired the Taskforce since 2019.  

Jeffery Forbes ​

Jeffery Forbes

Jeffery is a captain for the City of Detroit Fire Department, having previously served as lieutenant for 13 years. Prior to joining the Detroit FD, he served as a firefighter paramedic POC for the City of Farmington Hills. In addition to his fire department role, he has worked as an independent TIPS Trainer for the past 18 years.

Joseph Forro

Joseph Forro

Experienced Fire Chief with a demonstrated history of working in the airlines/aviation industry. Skilled in Crisis Management, Government, Emergency Management, Fire Management, and Operational Planning. Strong military and protective services professional with a M.S. Emergency Services Management focused in Emergency Services from Columbia Southern University.

Bryan Kerns

Bryan Kerns

Bryan Kerns has spent 17 years of a 20 year teaching career, as an algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2 teacher at Dobyns-Bennett High School. In addition to teaching math, he created the Dobyns-Bennett Fire Program, which includes the D-B Prescribed Fire team and full progression of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Fire Management Services courses. His unique work in building the D-B Fire Program has earned him invitations to speak at the North Carolina Prescribed Council annual meeting, the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network annual workshop, and the Longleaf Alliance bi-annual meeting. He currently serves as president-elect of the Bays Mountain Park Association board and is the Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network Landscape Lead for the Unaka and Great Smoky Mountains Escarpment. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech University and a Master’s degree from Grand Canyon University and was recently named as district Teacher of the Year for Grades 9–12.

Daniel Kistner

Danny Kistner

Danny is regarded an industry leader and innovator on a variety of high impact topics including firefighter safety and health, adaptive leadership, professionalism, and prehospital medical services; his work resulted in the creation of a Texas advisory committee on firefighter health and wellness, and a requirement for all Texas regulated firefighters to complete the NFFF’s Courage to be Safe® program. He is an accomplished author and speaker, with articles appearing in various fire service periodicals, texts and whitepapers. Danny holds a PhD from SMU, a Master’s degree from OSU, and Bachelor’s degree from Western Oregon University. He received a fellowship to Harvard’s Kennedy School, Senior Execs in State & Local Government program in 2011. Danny was one of the original NFFF Life Safety Advocates and the first Regional Advocate for Region VI.

Kristen Mills

Kristen Mills serves as the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (GO CAPS) Tri-Lakes Coordinator and Human Services Facilitator with Branson Schools. In her role, she has worked with local school, industry, and community leaders to build the GO CAPS program in the area to include strands in: Medicine and Health Care, Business and Entrepreneurship, Education, Fire, and Law Enforcement. Kristen serves as a dual credit instructor at Ozarks Technical Community College and Missouri State University and enjoys developing relationships with stakeholders to grow partnerships and expand profession-based learning experiences that enhance meaningful workforce connections in the area. She finds great joy in connecting students with local organizations to make career connections, develop durable skills, uncover passions and strengths, and form robust professional networks.

Jason Morin

Jason Morin

Nearly twenty years in public/private education and firefighting/EMS and 15 years as a college instructor has taught me much and there is always more to learn. I currently manage and instruct a Career and Technical school Firefighting/EMS program where students receive professional certifications.
Mike Novak

Mike Novak

Mike Novak is the Division Chief of Training and Safety for Branson Fire Rescue (MO). Novak’s areas of responsibility with Branson include training program management as well as health and incident safety.  He serves as the Region 7 Volunteer Advocate Manager for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Everyone Goes Home program. Novak holds a master’s degree in public administration in emergency services administration and is credentialed as a Chief Fire Officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence and as an Executive Fire Officer through the National Fire Academy.

Nick Perkins​

Nick Perkins

Chief Perkins was appointed the Fire Chief on October 1, 2021. During his 25 year career with the District he has risen through the ranks becoming a Chief Officer in 2011. He has worked as the Assistant Fire Chief, a Shift Commander, and as the Training Division Chief before being appointed as the Fire Chief. He graduated from the San Antonio College Fire Academy in 1997 and has earned an Associate’s Degree in fire protection technology from Austin Community College, a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree from Texas State University, and a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of Texas at Rio Grande. He is a designated Chief Fire Officer by the Center for Public Safety Excellence and a Texas A&M Fire Service Chief Executive Officer. He has established and taught fire protection technology programs in central Texas high schools and at the collegiate level. 

Mike Prete

Mike Prete

Mike Prete retired after 37 years of active service, finishing his career as an Assistant Fire Chief at Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Services, a large combination department near our nation’s capital.  Mike began teaching in his early days in the service, serving as a recruit instructor, and has continued this passion for teaching today.  As part of his recruit training responsibilities, Chief Prete coordinated and liaised for Montgomery County Public School’s High School Cadet program. Today Chief Prete continues to teach and serve as a project coordinator for the NFFF.

Robert Stokes

Cary Thompson

John Tippett

John Tippett

John Tippett joined the Foundation in April 2018 as the Director of Fire Service Programs, after a 44-year career in the fire service. John began his career as a volunteer in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1974. He was hired as a career firefighter in Montgomery County in 1976 and spent the next 33 years with various departments and the County, serving as a firefighter, company officer, and battalion chief.

John was also an adjunct instructor, member (and later task force leader) of Maryland Task Force 1 (a FEMA urban search and rescue team), and an integral part of the department’s firefighter safety program. He retired from Montgomery County in 2009 as the safety battalion chief to take a position with the Charleston (SC) Fire Department as its first deputy chief of operations. John spent the next 7 1/2 years as the operations deputy, assisting with the rebuilding of the department after the Sofa Super Store Fire. From 2017 to 2018 he served as interim fire chief.

John holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science and a master’s degree in Emergency Services Management from Columbia Southern University.

He has worked extensively on firefighter safety initiatives throughout his career, including introducing Crew Resource Management to the fire service and the Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System. John has written and lectured frequently on topics of firefighter safety, decision making, leadership, and strategy and tactics.

He earned his chief fire officer designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence in 2012 and was re-certified in 2015. John is also a Fellow with the Institution of Fire Engineers. He currently serves as an at large board member of the International Association of Fire Chief’s Safety, Health and Survival Section, is a certified health and safety officer through the Fire Department Safety Officers’ Association, an instructor for the Blue Card Command Training Program, and a past president of the Charleston County Fire Chief’s Association. John was the International Society of Fire Service Instructors Instructor of the Year in 2006.

Tony Watts

David Wiklanski

Dave Wiklanski

Captain for the City of New Brunswick, NJ Fire Department and Fire Service Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP) Program Manager, Behavioral Health Specialist for NFFF.

David Wiklanski is a Captain for the City of New Brunswick, NJ Fire Department. He has been an advocate for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for over a decade. In addition to being an advocate, David has worked as a Behavioral Health Specialist, teaching the Taking Care of Our Own® program, and working with the Uniformed Support Groups. David holds a master’s degree in behavioral sciences from Kean University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology also from Kean University.


Trevor Blankenship

Marybeth Henry

Sakeenah Jaffri

Jamal Mickles

Kyria Ngankoy

Candace Vinson

Michele Lewis Watts Ph.D.

Kylee Weston