Each year, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Youth in the Fire Service Committee honors an outstanding youth group leader. This person embodies all the values that make this critical position influential and effective.
A leader is a person who has vision and the skills to make it happen – someone who leads by example. This leader motivates members of the youth group and keeps a positive attitude that inspires them to be their best. Finally, this leader is a good listener, lending attention to the needs and wants of the youth group.
Gerard Presta, East Norwich Fire Co.
Firefighter Gerard Presta has exemplified over many years through his achievements and dedication what it takes to be a youth mentor. His tireless efforts have taken the Nassau County Junior Firefighter program to new heights not only on the national stage, but also internationally. Over the years, he has undoubtedly made a difference not just in his community, but also in communities both near and far.
Presta joined the East Norwich Fire Co. in September of 1997 and quickly became involved with the youth of the fire company. He has been their advisor, their counsel, their leader and their friend. Presta has taught them the respect and tradition that comes with the volunteer fire service, but also taught them how to be good people and strong future leaders.
Presta has traveled with the East Norwich youth group to seminars and training sessions in Nassau County, Long Island and across New York State. Not only is Presta always concerned with his youth being trained and educated, but also having a good time and a great experience.
He has greatly enhanced the East Norwich Juniors program by offering certified first responder training so Juniors can become state certified. They have done scuba dive rescue training, something that is fun, unique and incredibly useful to our Juniors as they move forward in their respective lives and careers. The Juniors, under Presta’s guidance, have also participated in some real-world disaster scenarios.
The Nassau County Junior Firefighter’s Association attended a disaster drill with Syosset Hospital and another with LaGuardia Airport. In 2012, Long Island was struck by Hurricane Sandy, resulting in widespread damage along Long Island’s south shore. Without hesitation, Presta took the Juniors to the many affected areas where they, in conjunction with Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, handed out food and water to families desperately in need.
Presta organizes yearly blood drives at his fire headquarters. He and the Juniors have actively involved with the Nassau County District Attorney’s office in expanding their child identification program. Presta also helped get a few other Junior organizations together for the yearly Long Island Day at the FASNY Firemen’s Home.
Presta has been instrumental in developing an exchange program between Nassau County youth and the youth of Germany, a great opportunity for both youth groups to see first-hand how the fire service operates in both countries. It’s an outstanding educational program made available thanks to Presta.
He was heavily involved in forming the Nassau County Junior Firefighter’s Association. Firematic youth groups from all over Nassau County are members. They meet monthly, have their own Board of Officers and have great guest speakers, but the main goal is for the youth to meet, socialize and form friendships that will carry on way past their time in the association and continue throughout their volunteer firefighting career.
Presta is also involved in the Nassau County youth firefighter boot camp. Youth from Long Island enjoy learning numerous firematic evolutions first-hand while being taught by Nassau County instructors. Fahrenheit 516 is a one-week program designed strictly for youth firefighters training and, once again, it is an innovative idea fostered by Presta.
Some would classify Presta as a “youth whisperer.” He seems to be able to identify with these young people as he has this instinct to be able to talk to, motivate and befriend them.
Presta has been an integral part of his community through his dedicated youth mentoring. He has impacted an entire generation of youth in our communities through the Juniors program that will last for years to come.
ADAPTED FROM NOMINATIONS BY FASNY PAST PRESIDENT ROBERT MCCONVILLE AND EAST NORWICH FIRE CO. CHIEF CRAIG BEZMEN