Greenville Fire/Rescue is welcoming 21 new firefighters and EMTs to their department, making their group the largest academy class in Greenville history.

On Wednesday, the graduates of Academy 11 were honored in a ceremony at Pitt Community College. Friends and family gathered to watch each graduate walk across the stage to earn their badge. Parents, grandparents and significant others joined them on stage and had the honor to pin their badges on them. The cadets have been training every week for the past 6 months through physical and mental obstacles.

Upon receiving their badge, they are now certified Firefighter Level ll and EMT Basic.

Among the 21 cadets, 2 females join the ranks.

“I’m looking forward to training with technical rescue,” said Casey Knepp, graduate of Greenville Fire and Rescue Academy 11, “I love the repelling and I’ve heard that we get to do it off the water tower so I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Many of the members have already started their shifts with the department, while others received their assignment today. The graduation ceremony marks the end of one journey, but many say it’s only the beginning.

For cadet Rodale Pippen today also marks the beginning of another journey.

“For the last 6 months she’s been there for me when I was discouraged, she was positive and encouraging me to keep going” said Rodale Pippen, graduate of Greenville Fire and Rescue Academy 11, “she was there every step of the way so I said it’s going to be about her today too.”

And that’s exactly what he did. As the couple was walking off the stage, Pippen staged a medical collapse. To his girlfriend’s surprise he was down on one knee.

“Very unexpected but he did a good one, that was good,” said Imani Safford, Pippen’s fiancée.