Return to Headlines

Career Center Fire Cadet named first recipient of “Future Hero” Award

Jackson, Mich. – There’s a new plaque hanging up on the wall of the Fire/EMS Academy at the Jackson Area Career Center – one that aims to inspire public safety and public service students to go the extra mile.

“Becoming a first responder or serving in our nation’s military is not just something you do, it’s who you are,” said Tony Cruz, a firefighter for Napoleon Township. “We not only want to encourage these young people to follow that draw to service, but we wanted a way to show them that their hard work and efforts are being noticed, and are greatly appreciated by those of us currently in the field,” said Cruz.

To show that appreciation, Cruz and another firefighter – Jan Ganzel of Blackman Township – came up with the idea for the “Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Future Hero Award” to recognize students, their efforts and their dedication to becoming a helper in the community. The award is specifically geared toward students enrolled in Firefighting/EMS, Law Enforcement and JROTC programs.

The two men drew inspiration for the award from the organizations they’re involved with. Cruz is the president of the Jackson County Honor Society, an organization dedicated to honoring Jackson County firefighters and promoting community safety through public safety scholarships. Ganzel is a regional representative for the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation, named for an FDNY firefighter who gave his life trying to save others when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001. 

The first name engraved on the Future Hero Award plaque is Springport High School Senior and Firefighting/EMS Cadet Andrew Dotson. He was chosen for the award after taking part in the 2018 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk at Cascades. “It was a surprise – I was just running a race with my father for a cause I believed in”, said 17-year-old Dotson.

Cruz says it was much more than that. “Seeing Andrew during the event, we could tell that this young man ‘gets it’. Even at his age, he presents himself with professionalism, courtesy, honor and respect,” said Cruz. “He understands the amount of sacrifice that has taken place as a result of that fateful day in American history and he still strives to follow Stephen Siller’s mantra of ‘Let us do good’.”

Fire/EMS Instructor Jason Morin echoed those statements, saying Andrew is very deserving of the Future Hero Award. “It shows his dedication and commitment to providing a service to this community and supporting this industry,” said Morin. “This award is also an accolade to his acknowledgement to those who lost their lives doing this kind of work.”

Morin was just as surprised as Andrew was when it came to receiving this award, something he hopes inspire other students. “Having the Stephen Siller Foundation and the Jackson County Honor Society solidify their commitment to the next generation of aspiring first responders at the Career Center, I think it will help inspire other students in the future to consider one of these career paths.”

To learn more about the programs offered at the Jackson Area Career Center, visit To register or donate to the 2019 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk at Cascades Park on Saturday, May 18, visit

Andrew Dotson Future Hero award