By Tiffany Contreras
Matthew Beri is one of the first cadets to graduate from College of the Desert’s new fire academy. While he spent many of his days enduring long hours of training and getting on-the-job experience, his desire to pursue a career as a firefighter began with his upbringing.
Having grown up in Indio, California, Beri took an early love for the fire industry with a clear understanding of what it meant to help others. “When I was a little boy and I would see a firetruck drive by with lights and sirens, I would get so excited that I would cry,” he shares. “I was raised to lend a helping hand to anyone in need – whether it be family, friends, neighbors, or strangers.” With his passion and desire to help as many people as possible, he realized that being a firefighter would allow him to pursue both at the same time. This calling also made him realize that he would need to go to school in order to achieve his goal.
Beri developed his work ethic when his father made him perform construction jobs to teach him the value of hard work, along with the fact that it does, indeed, pay off. Nonetheless, his father’s encouragement did not end when Beri decided he wanted to attend college and become a firefighter. “Although neither of my parents went to college, they stressed to my siblings and I the importance of continuing our education after high school in order to obtain careers we truly love.” His father’s encouragement led him to enroll in College of the Desert’s brand new fire academy in August, 2013. He experienced good and bad moments.
When Beri started the academy, the only knowledge he had about the fire service was that from a textbook. As a result, challenges developed which he had to work through, despite how difficult they were. “There were times throughout the academy that were very physically and mentally demanding,” he admits. “Even to the point that I would ask myself, ‘Can I do this?'” Though, he, nor his loved ones, never really doubted his ability. “My answer was always, ‘Yes, I can do this. I’ve come this far, and I will not give up.'” He stood by his word and fought through the challenging times. “We were exposed to many different training scenarios, such as: live structure fire training, auto extrication – removing a mangled vehicle’s shell from a trapped victim involved in an accident – wild land fire training, rope rescue, firefighter safety, and survival skills.” Through the intense training, he found comfort in those close to him. “What kept me going was not only self-motivation, but motivation from my loved ones and my fellow academy cadets.” Shortly after his continued hard work and persistence, he completed and graduated from the academy and immediately received a fire-service position.
Beri interviewed with the Riverside Country Fire Volunteer Reserve Program earlier this year and was hired as a volunteer reserve firefighter. With this opportunity, he will be able to put his training to use in real-life situations, while broadening his knowledge, until he can obtain a full-time position.
As he has always been willing to lend a helping hand, now he lends words of wisdom to those who may be interested in joining the academy or any fire-service training program. “Be prepared to work hard in an academy with a paramilitary structure.” It is also important to ask for clarification, if needed, because “in this field, not following instructions can cost lives.”
Beri has put himself on a path that is leading him to a dream that began when he was just a little boy. He has given himself the opportunity to pursue a gratifying, helpful career and is an inspiration to his family, as he is now a fire academy graduate – which all started with a joyous tear when he saw firetrucks. Because of his drive to succeed and follow his dream, his family and loved ones – as proud as they are- “were always right beside me cheering me on.”