Close to $250,000 has been dispensed so far to over 50 recipients under Westchester County’s tuition and student loan reimbursement program to help volunteer fire departments and EMS agencies recruit and retain more local heroes.

County Executive George Latimer launched the Higher Education Recruitment and Retention Opportunity (HERRO) program several months ago to help bolster the ranks of volunteer fire departments and EMS agencies. HERRO provides active volunteer emergency services personnel with tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment assistance.

“The HERRO program seeks to encourage more people to serve their communities as volunteer firefighters or ambulance corps personnel,” Latimer said. “We are off to a great start and hope to build further on the success we have had in the program’s first few months.”

Volunteers are eligible for up to $6,000 annually in tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment assistance.  To be eligible, a HERRO applicant must be an active member of a volunteer fire department, fire company, fire district or EMS agency for one year. Volunteers must maintain acceptable volunteer activity and training levels as set forth by the County during their entire course of study.  An applicant’s department or agency will have to verify that these training and service requirements have been met.

The HERRO program is administered by the Department of Emergency Services, which oversees volunteer fire and EMS training programs in Westchester County.

Susan Spear, Deputy Commissioner at DES, said more than 50 applicants have received tuition reimbursement or loan repayment funding since the HERRO program was launched in March, totaling close to $250,000.

HERRO recipient Madelyn Contreras, who volunteers with the Mount Kisco Fire Department, said, “The HERRO program has enabled me to pursue my educational aspirations while being a present member of my department. I am so appreciative of the program, not only for what it has provided me with, but simply for the recognition that Westchester County is giving back to us as we serve our communities.”

HERRO recipient Max Yang, who volunteers with the Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said, “I am so appreciative of the generous support from the Department of Emergency Services. I am honored to be recognized for my service with Ardsley-Secor Volunteer Ambulance Corps (ASVAC), and I believe that the HERRO program is a great way for the County to support the work of young fire and EMS volunteers. Joining ASVAC was one of the best choices I have made, and I hope that HERRO is able to attract more volunteers to fire and EMS agencies around the county."

Other highlights of the HERRO program:

  • Earned credit hours must be obtained from an accredited college, university, trade school or highly focused training program. Transcripts must be provided.
  • There are no restrictions on the type of academic coursework the volunteer chooses to
  • Students can be enrolled on a full-time or part-time basis and must maintain a grade point average of “C” or better – or 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • For tuition reimbursement, Westchester Volunteer H.E.R.R.O. funds can only be utilized for on-campus (classroom) or distance (internet) learning tuition costs. Other costs, such as books or school fees, are not eligible for reimbursement.

Application forms and more detailed information about the program’s requirements and approval process can be found on the County's Emergency Services site..