Two Cardinals serving community at Kochville Fire Department


The Kochville Township Fire Department recently hired two SVSU students, Benjamin Petit and Kayla VanderVeen, to its firefighting team.

Both Petit and VanderVeen have previous experience in the emergency services field and bring a unique skillset that aids both the fire department and surrounding community. Although their stories are unique, they share a drive to make a difference in the lives of others while also gaining experience for their futures.

Petit, a native of Mancelona and a second-year nursing student, started his firefighting career on the Mancelona Fire Department staff, where he worked for two years and learned to love the job. Once he arrived at SVSU, Petit immediately reached out to Kochville Township Fire Department Chief Alan Malesky.

“I didn’t want my firefighting experience to end for eight months while at school, so I decided to look into the Kochville Township Fire Department,” Petit said. “When Google Maps took me here, I was getting ready to leave when Al pulled in, and my first question was, ‘Are you hiring?’”

Malesky knew from the beginning that Petit would be a good fit on the fire department staff. Petit’s previous experience and motivation to help those around him made him an attractive prospect for the department. Petit quickly adapted to working around the clock while taking a full-time courseload, knowing the difficult schedule would be worth it.

“Both students had experiences with emergency services, making it easy to hire them,” Malesky said. “Even though they were young, I knew we could benefit from them being a part of our team.”

Petit hopes to eventually weave his passion as a fireman and eventual goal of becoming a nurse into one. He hopes his flexible hours as a fireman will hopefully allow him to be able to work as a nurse in his remaining time.

“My favorite part of the job is the adrenaline rush, which is why I’ve been hooked since my senior year of high school,” said Petit. “I love being a fireman, and hopefully I can continue in the future.”

VanderVeen, a first-year nursing student, has a similar passion for helping others, but she traveled a different path than Petit. Instead of going through fireman training, she received her EMT license while attending high school and has worked as an EMT ever since.

Originally an applicant elsewhere in Saginaw County, VanderVeen was advised to apply to the Kochville Township Fire Department where, once again, Malesky saw a skill set that was too good to pass up.

“While at SVSU, I figured, what better way to see all aspects of emergency medicine than to work for the fire department,” VanderVeen said. “Any and all emergency experience I could gain will hopefully lead to my success in the future, while also helping others.”

VanderVeen currently serves as one of the two medical responders on the Kochville Township Fire Department staff. While on fire responses, VanderVeen takes vital signs of returning firefighters and takes pictures of the scene. She hopes to eventually be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a flight nurse on a helicopter.

“These two individuals have drive, they know they want to be here, and they know what they want to do,” Malesky said. “They have a goal to work towards, and I think they will achieve their goals because of their work ethic.”

If any student is interested in joining the Kochville Township firefighting team, even with no experience, they are encouraged to contact Malesky at 989-792-7596 ex. 25 or at