A TEENAGER who was struggling at school has seen her life turn around since taking part in a course run by the fire service.

Lucy Saunders, 17, took part in a Salamander course run by the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2010.

At the time she was a pupil at Ridgeway School and lacking in self confidence but since the course Lucy, of Old Town, has learned to believe in herself.

And in June she will become a retained member of the fire service at Swindon Fire Station, in Drove Road.

The Salamander programme encourages participants to work as a team, while building up confidence and self-esteem.

Pupils taking part get the chance to put out fires, cut people out of cars and abseil down buildings as they see what it is like to be a firefighter.

Now Lucy, who is just 5ft 3ins tall, has has nothing but praise for the course.

She said: “It was really good as I wasn’t a very confident person.

“I had a difficult start in life and found it hard to get on with people and I had quite a small personality.

“The course helped me to grow into myself as I was given responsibility and was listened to by the adults who run the course.

“At the time of the course I wasn’t performing well at school and was predicted Ds in maths and English, so I was failing.

“After the course I learned that nothing was going to happen unless I pushed myself and I went to my tutor and started putting in three extra hours a week to study for my exams.

“I left school with 11 GCSEs, including Bs in maths and English.

“I have now ordered my uniform and I am hoping to start in June at Swindon Fire Station.”

As a retained firefighter, Lucy will be on call and expected to answer her pager at the drop of a hat. She could be sent to any job.

She now makes a conscious effort to attend the Salamander courses as an inspiration of what can be achieved and says she always feels proud when the children get their certificates.

“It is nice for them to see someone who has done the course and what can be achieved,” she said.

“I try to be an ambassador for the young people because I can relate to them and it is nice for them to have someone to speak to.

“Becoming a firefighter is something I have always dreamed of.”

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service is always looking for people to be on-call firefighters. To find out more, visit www.wiltsfire.gov.uk or call 01380 731144.