January 22, 2015 - Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, Jr. was the distinguished guest for this LSS session. Commissioner Whitfield, a 31-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department (BFD), shared a bit of his upbringing in Buffalo with the students. While the Commissioner said he had always been a good student when he was younger and didn't get into trouble, a situation in his youth greatly impacted his life path. After sharing the details of an incident in which he was falsely accused of a wrongdoing, Commissioner Whitfield cautioned students to always "be mindful of your circumstances and pay attention to what is going on around you." He continued by saying, "...what you are involved in now is going to determine what you can or cannot do later [in life]."
After giving students a brief trip through his professional life and how he has risen through the ranks of the BFD, the Commissioner reminded students of the importance of listening to the instructions and advice of the adults in their lives. He told students that the adults - parent and teachers alike - have the job of seeing the potential in students, even when students can't see it themselves. He encouraged students to continue to work hard now and strive toward their goals because "you never know how things are connected... Your job [right now] is to prepare for whatever opportunities may come your way."
As the overall message to students, Commissioner Whitfield explained that part of his job in coordinating Emergency Medical Services for the city of Buffalo requires a four-step process: 1. Preparedness, 2. Response, 3. Recover and 4. Reflection. Commissioner Whitfield stressed that this process is crucial not only to his job, but for everyday life for everyone.
"First, you must prepare yourself for opportunity. Study, learn, practice... Do what work you need to do so you are ready for the opportunities when they come... And they will, when you are prepared. Second, you must respond appropriately to situations, using all of your skill sets that you have prepared. Next, you have to recover - physically, emotionally and mentally - from whatever events took place, whether the results were positive or negative. Finally, you have to reflect - look back on what happened to learn from the mistakes to improve for next time. Take these four steps, have the commitment, focus and discipline to follow your dreams and you never know what opportunities are gonna come your way."