The road taken to the Alpha Volunteer Fire Company by Firefighter Christophe Cheroret has been the one definitely less traveled by–from Paris, France to Nebraska to Australia to Kansas to State College, to be exact—over the course of seven years.
But the reasons he sought out the Alpha Fire Company (while definitely unique to his international flair) are remarkably similar to so many who take on the challenge of earning the Alpha Black Hat. He saw something here that could fill a void in his life.
What’s so surprising is what he was missing… was American Football. Learn more in this month’s member profile!
Firefighter, Live in
Certifications: Firefighter 1, Hazmat Awareness, Engine 1
Alpha Since: 2017
Education: Masters in Education, University of Technology–Sydney, Australia.
Current Job: Doctoral Candidate in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning at Penn State
Where are you from?
I am originally from Paris, France. The big city. During my last year of undergrad at the University of Normandy in 2010, I had an opportunity to become an exchange student and continue my love of football. Yes, American football, not soccer. I was a wide receiver in France.
I got to spend over a year in Lincoln, Nebraska and played wide receiver for one year for Nebraska Wesleyan University, a Division III school. When I decided to go for my masters, I was required to go home to France, and I couldn’t choose the US since I’d just been there.
So I chose to pursue my Masters in Australia at the University of Technology in Sydney. There, in the second year of my studies, I was given the opportunity to return to the US as a graduate assistant at a small college in Kansas: Fort Hays State University.
There I became a teaching assistant as a French teacher and it changed my whole direction in life toward education. So when I completed my Masters, I decided to pursue a Doctorate in Education and discovered State College and Penn State.
Why did you become an Alpha?
Team sports have always been a huge part of my life. After you pass a certain age here (in the US), it’s tougher to play physical contact sports as an adult—where in Europe there are actual clubs inside cities – Football clubs—that allow you to play much later in life.
When I knew I was coming to State College for my doctorate, I looked up something to fill that void. I looked up the volunteer fire company and saw it as a kind of team sport—high impact, high energy, and it was the right choice.
There are a lot of other aspects now that involve me, but seeking a team sport like football is what started it. I called from France to Carolyn, our administrative assistant (our Alpha mom)… and stopped by in State College when I came to town. And now I live here, this is my house, the fire station!
What Was Most Challenging For You At The Outset?
As a non-native English speaker and non-practitioner of the Imperial system, I had a lot of difficulties with things that are feet and inches. They would say, “Grab that five inch line, we need 50 feet of this, 200 feet of that…” 200 feet has no representation in my head in terms of length. We had a lot of laughs.
Despite the difficulties of training, what was the most significant day I had here when I started as an Alpha was the day in orientation was the day we tried our gear on. The day you put it on, it’s like you’re wearing the colors of everybody that wore the same colors in the past. And you have that pride that goes with it. You have this incredible feeling, and it’s really empowering, you know?
What do you like best about firefighting, the community, the company, and BEING an Alpha Volunteer
It’s been interesting, the people that I met here, because we all have different stories, not all students, not all young, not all old, different walks of life, different backgrounds, and it helped me dive into culture.
When I joined, our Lieutenant said we’d become very, very close, to the people we would train with in our cohort, and they are now some of my best mates in life.
When you go through challenges, you get the chance to work as a team to overcome those challenges. A link is created. Something you share with them. I’ve created great friendships here! And what’s great is while I’m hanging out with my mates, I get to serve the community. It’s all for the greater good. It cannot get better than this.
What one piece of advice would you have for a potential trainee (thinking about becoming an Alpha?)
Stop by. That’s all it takes. Maybe this is for you, maybe this isn’t. You have to dive in, see what it’s about, meet the people that are here. You are always invited to stop by the station. Maybe it wasn’t what you expected. That’s fine. But maybe it’s more than you ever expected.
Quick Sparks—Christophe’s Favorite…
Movie: None. But Talladega Nights—The Ballad of Ricky Bobby—because the villain is French
Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a %$#. By Mark Manson
Food: Cheese. Any type, any kind. And bread
Time of year: Summer
Alpha Gear/Tool/Vehicle: All of them!
Hobby: Photography. Sports. Firefighting is my sport now.
Teams: The Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers