Cleveland Students Excel in Search and Rescue

Cleveland Students Excel in Search and Rescue

By Kira Chan, Copy Editor

A small group of Cleveland students have taken on a new challenge that they hope to share throughout the school: Search and Rescue.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO SAR) is a non-profit organization that recruits volunteers. This search and rescue team is the first response team for missing, lost, and injured people in Multnomah County. Those who take interest and want to pursue it endure a nine month training program to acquire certification. It focuses on learning both in the classroom as well as hands-on practice out in the wilderness. The training includes learning basic survival skills, first aid, crime scene safety and security, search techniques, and more.

Around 70 people will begin the training, but an estimated 25 successfully finish it. Over the past year, a vast amount of people who completed the training were Cleveland students. Camille Christensen, Bennett Gaeta, Caroline Diamond, Lainie Neher, Will Heins, Tanguy Bader, Maeve Conway, and Lejla Biberic are all students who successfully became certified and are active members of the Search and Rescue program. They learned to balance school, extra curriculars, the busy schedule of Search and Rescue, and be successful in all of them. It has changed the lives of some, if not all of them, both emotionally and physically.

“Honestly, it’s changed me so much,” said Gaeta. “I feel like being in such serious situations with people who can help me through them, I feel like I’ve matured so much through stuff like that, and just being responsible for a group of kids with me and responsible for myself and the safety of the subject; I feel like that really changes a person.” Gaeta was not alone on this statement, as several others felt as though they wouldn’t be who they are today without it. They develop leadership through the responsibility that they must have, which is not something that everyone has the opportunity to do.

MCSO SAR focuses on teaching leadership, confidence, and interpersonal skills. The organization makes sure that each volunteer is well-trained and ready mentally and physically for any situation by maximizing training times. In the state of Oregon, a Search and Rescue program must require at least 40 hours of training; at MCSO SAR, it’s a minimum of 200 hours. The training doesn’t stop after the nine month course either. Once a month, the group goes on a weekend-long training in the wilderness where they hike all night, do mock searches, practice survival outdoors, and maintain their techniques.

Despite the demanding training, the payoff is more than worth it. The members of Search and Rescue have stories about being sick in the cold and rainy outdoors at 3 a.m., and hiking all night to find the subject. As grueling as it sounds, it all went away once the subject was found and they knew they had done what they needed to. The fatigue turns into a sense of accomplishment and relief, as this is what they’re trained to do and what they have a passion for. “The ultimate goal in Search and Rescue is that we go out and search for people and help potentially save lives, so it’s good to push through the training to the point where we can actually do that,” said Neher.

Many plan to continue this work throughout high school, as they have a desire for this work and have bonded with others who have the same aspiration to help people. They emphasized the new family and community that they have found through this.

“We just kind of go through everything together, we know what it is, and we know what it’s like. We’re a big family. On the ride to search and rescue, it’s like a big family in the car, we’re all yelling at each other and laughing and making jokes and making fun of one another and it’s just like, all out of love because we all just have that special bond that nobody else really has,” Heins shared.

The MCSO SAR is looking to recruit again this fall, and potential candidates for the program could be walking these halls. Cleveland students have proved to be a perfect fit for the role, and those who are already a part of it hope that the Cleveland community will be even more represented in Search and Rescue this year. Last year they won an award at certification for having the most student representation out of any school in Multnomah County, a huge accomplishment.

“The posters really don’t sell it, like they should, they don’t tell you what it actually is and what we actually do,” said Heins. “A lot of people join for the skills that you will learn and they end up learning a lot more than they ever really thought they would.”