VALPARAISO — In partnership with the Northwest Indiana District 1 Firefighter Training Council, the MAAC Foundation announced the graduation of its 12th Fire Academy.

The ceremony will be held on Friday, Dec. 1, at 6:00 p.m. CST at the MAAC Foundation First Responder Training Campus in Valparaiso.

The 26 graduates represent East Chicago, Michigan City, Portage, Whiting, U.S. Steel, Hobart, Lake Station, and Burns Harbor Fire Departments. The recruits completed an 11- week training program that included instruction in fire suppression, hazmat operations, and technical rescue, along with other firefighting skills. They also learned about the importance of community service and public education.

“We are proud to welcome these 26 new firefighters to our community,” said Celina Weatherwax, President and CEO of the MAAC Foundation. “They have demonstrated the dedication and commitment necessary to serve as first responders and we are confident that they will make a positive impact throughout Lake, La Porte, and Porter counties.”

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have trained these capable firefighters,” said Battalion Chief Chris Crail, Academy Commander. “They have learned to adapt and overcome challenges throughout the academy. It is my hope that these students understand the skills they
learned here are applicable to more than only firefighting, these are skills to carry with them for the rest of their life.”

The names of the graduates and their fire departments are as follows:
• Tanner Barron, Portage Fire Department
• Alex Bell, Michigan City Fire Department
• Ricardo Bernal Navarro, Whiting Fire Department
• Michael Bim-Merle, Portage Fire Department
• Bobbie Blanton, U.S. Steel Fire Department
• Joseph Burke, Portage Fire Department
• Roberto Bustamante, Whiting Fire Department
• Tyler Campos, East Chicago Fire Department
• Brandon Collins, Portage Fire Department
• Jakob Cuadra, Hobart Fire Department
• Timothy Cummins, East Chicago Fire Department
• Tristan Frazier, Michigan City Fire Department
• Rory Neethling, Portage Fire Department
• Jacob Ott, Michigan City Fire Department
• T’Rai Pleasant, Lake Station Fire Department
• Klime Prentoski, East Chicago Fire Department
• David Ramirez, East Chicago Fire Department
• Julian Rivas, Hobart Fire Department
• Tyler Rosenbaum, Portage Fire Department
• Salvatore Sanchez, Whiting Fire Department
• Ryan Stanley, Michigan City Fire Department
• John Sullivan, East Chicago Fire Department
• Michael Trinidad, East Chicago Fire Department
• Michael Van Waardenburg, Burns Harbor Fire Department
• Jonathan Zerbes, Michigan City Fire Department
• Anthony Zralka, Michigan City Fire Department

For more information about the MAAC Foundation,  visit