Aisha Cortez: From GED® Student to Applegate Fire Department Recruitment Retention Coordinator

  • Attended RCC from 2018-2021
  • Earned her GED® Diploma and EMT Certificate at RCC
  • Currently the Recruitment Retention Coordinator for Applegate Fire Department and on-call EMT/Firefighter

When did you decide to come to RCC? Why?

In 2018, I had just moved home and was going through a divorce. I knew that I wanted to go back to school so I could give my kids a good life. RCC was the local college in my area with a GED® program. Once I started attending the GED® classes I heard about the SOHOPE program, which had made me more excited to keep going in college.

How and why did you choose your career program/major?

The SOHOPE program helped me get going with college and gave me a lot of guidance and support. When I first started at RCC I had no idea what I was doing beyond getting my GED®. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to major in but I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. My faculty advisors in the Adult Basic Skills department gave me plenty of options to choose from, and I chose to get my EMT certificate. While I was attending the EMT program I heard about Applegate Fire Department having a student program.

What about your program has helped you succeed? 

My advisors, Jasmyne Chandler and Kristi Kowalski, were amazing guiding me through school. I was able to complete my EMT certificate, which allowed me to get into the student program with Applegate Fire Department. I went through Fire Academy and obtained my Firefighter 1 & 2 designation. I was also named Rookie of the Year in 2022.

What are/were your plans after college, and what are you doing now?  

After I got my EMT certificate and Firefighter 1 & 2, I stayed on as a volunteer and had the opportunity to be a live-in firefighter at one of the Applegate Fire Department stations. I am going on three years with the Applegate Fire Department. I applied for the position as the Recruitment Retention Coordinator and was hired in September. Having the support from RCC and the SOHOPE program pushed me further than I could have ever imagined. I am forever grateful.


“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”