ARLINGTON -- Arlington Memorial High School senior Darrin Michael (DJ) Jennings II takes the spotlight after being awarded with WYNT's "13 Kids Who Care," for over 1,000 hours of community service he logged with the Arlington Fire Department. Many of those hours were added up in emergency response during Hurricane Irene.
The mission of the award focuses on teenagers who "work diligently to help the disadvantaged, disabled or their fellow teens who are at risk." In 2012, Jennings joined the search of a 7-year-old Arlington boy who was lost in the woods after a day of hunting with his dad. Jennings didn't leave his post for the 20 hours the boy was missing.
Fisher Elementary School Principal Deanne Lacoste nominated Jennings for the award because she believes he is a role model for the Arlington community. Jennings grew up with Lacoste's children both in and out of school and athletics. Lacoste said she knows her son has learned a great deal from him.
"I've watched D.J. over the course of these years do fire prevention at my school as a junior (firefighter), and have been very impressed with his dedication," said Lacoste. "When one of my students went missing, I was so impressed with his dependability and him keeping me in the loop with what was happening. His support for this community is what made me want to nominate him."
Jennings volunteered as a junior firefighter since he was 14 years old, working on fire-prevention tasks and helping in and out of the fire house. When he turned 18 last summer, he became a volunteer firefighter with a year of school left. When he graduates in June, Jennings plans to go to school for criminal justice with the hope of becoming a Vermont State Trooper.
"I really liked working on fire prevention," said Jennings who is now entirely responsible for one of the department's fire trucks. "My dad has been involved with the fire department since before I was alive. I get to see a lot of things others don't get to see."
Jennings' father, Darrin, has spent 22 years as a volunteer firefighter and is now the president of the fire company in addition to his job at Green Mountain Power. "He's always grown up around it. Anytime I've gone to calls, he has gone to calls with me from the time he was a baby," said Darrin Jennings.
Jennings' mother, Kendell, said she's very proud. "It's the spirit of him, it's just in his heart to volunteer. It makes him feel better about himself."
Jennings also interns for the AMHS Athletic Office, assisting the athletic director with maintaining equipment, game schedules and field upkeep. The 6-foot-3-inch young man plays center for AMHS boy's basketball. He scored over 1,100 points in the past season. Lacoste cited Jennings' willingness to be a team player, sense of duty, energy and positive attitude as reasons for her nomination.
AMHS Athletic Director Tim Stewart and Arlington Fire Chief Jamie Paustian were happy to be references and back up on Lacoste's nomination.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg