Margaret Fujisawa, Jake Hodges
Margaret Fujisawa, who runs Culver City High School’s College and Career Center, was very surprised during a fire drill when a firefighter turned to her - and waved.
From across the school yard she recognized Jake Hodges, a former student. She tears up as she recalls the moment she realized his dreams had come true, thanks in part to her support.
“I was so thrilled to see him in uniform,” she says. “I was just so proud.”
In 2001, when Hodges was a sophomore, she approached him on the school yard and handed him a flier about a weekend firefighter academy program for high school students run in cooperation with West Los Angeles College and the Los Angeles Fire Department.
“If you are interested, come and see me,” she said.
He signed up. And when he went to his classes, she was there.
“I had to be there for my students,” explains Fujisawa, Association of Classified Employees Culver City. “I took attendance. I interviewed students, walked with the captains and did what I needed to do, like inspecting students’ uniforms before lineup."
Hodges took beginning, intermediate and advanced courses at the academy. He also participated in the high school’s “job shadow program,” including a “ride-along” with members of the Culver City Fire Department.
“The academy offered rigorous training,” says Hodges, a firefighter and paramedic for five years now. “We studied theory. We worked with hose lines and ladders and did marching drills. It made me focused and prepared.”
Fujisawa gave him Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, a book by Dr. Seuss that encourages youngsters to follow their dream, when he graduated in 2004. (It is still on his bookcase.) He enrolled in El Camino Community College’s Firefighter Academy. He took a series of eligibility tests, and Fujisawa helped coach him for job interviews by giving tips such as “make eye contact” and “smile.” He was hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department at the age of 20; he now works for the Culver City Fire Department.
“Mrs. Fujisawa definitely had an impact on me. She helped me find my career. It’s never boring, the people are great, and I get to make a difference, helping people in the city where I grew up.”