CSU Knight and Fire Captain Vincent Harris Awarded $3.7 Million Federal Grant for Henry County Fire Department

A firefighter sprays a large fire with a fire hose.
Category: Success Stories

By Brittany Fillmore
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After earning his associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees from Columbia Southern University and an additional associate and bachelor’s degree from CSU sister institution Waldorf University, Vincent Harris knew he needed to put his education to good use. After climbing the ranks at the Henry County Fire Department in Georgia, where he now serves as captain, he decided to learn how to write grants.

When Harris puts his mind to something, he strives to be the best. As the program manager of the first grant he’s ever written, Harris led his department to a $3.7 million award, enough funds to hire 27 additional firefighters and medics.

The federal grant, which was awarded on March 6, 2018, was through the SAFER program, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. The funds will be dispersed over the next three years in order to bring the department to 337 employees.

Prior to earning his degrees, Harris was not interested in volunteering for extra activities. He attributes his education to making him more comfortable taking on more responsibilities.

“My education has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. The first grant I ever wrote was awarded and accepted. For me to be able to save the citizens of my county that money makes all those late nights and missed activities with my family that much more bearable. You also get a really good feeling knowing that through hard work, we were able to give 27 more firefighters the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Harris.

With his education, Harris was also able to enter the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and has his sights on a doctoral degree in the future.

“I can remember sitting at graduation for my bachelor’s degree and seeing the doctoral candidates thinking maybe that could be me some day,” he said. “I am now a forever student and I am always on the hunt for education.”

Juggling a rewarding career, family life and education caused Harris to take a look at his priorities and make time for the things that were most important.

“I can remember being on a cruise with my wife and not having the entire time to relax because I was working on my M.S. degree. I distinctly remember laying on the upper deck of the ship reading an emergency management book and seeing everyone else having uninterrupted fun. I knew that those sacrifices would only be short lived and would be better for my family in the long run,” said Harris.

“For anyone else looking to take on the task of going back to school, believe me you can do it. It is all about time management and small, present day sacrifices,” he said. “During my enrollment at CSU, I was a soccer coach, baseball coach, Cub Scout leader, husband, father and full-time firefighter. I am proof you can find the time; you just have to want to find it.” < Click to Tweet

Learn more about CSU’s fire science degrees.

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