Thanks to Worlds of Work (WOW), Noah Causey went from a high school student looking for a day off from school to a 23-year-old with his future mapped out. 

The East Alabama Fire District firefighter and EMT has been on the force since 2019. The spark for his occupation came in 2016, when he was among thousands of eastern Alabama students at that year’s WOW event in Anniston, Alabama. 

Early start 

East AlabamaWorks WOW presented by Eastman held its eighth event in 2023. More than 8,200 students from the seven-county eastern Alabama region learned about various career options available to them after graduation. 

Causey grew up with relatives who were firefighters, but his exposure to the craft at WOW helped him develop a passion for it that hasn’t been extinguished. 

“I was going to use the day just to get out of school. I didn’t plan to take anything seriously,” he said. “But just being able to see what it was like — it was great. They made it seem like friends who were able to live and work together sometimes.” 

Giving exposure 

Causey credits the program with starting him up the ladder of a firefighting career. That’s music to the ears of Carol Kirk, WOW chairperson. 

“I think back to when I was younger. I had fairly decent exposure to various occupations,” said Kirk, who is also the community outreach coordinator for Eastman in Anniston. “Most kids I know in eighth grade know what their parents do — about doctors and teachers — but they don’t have exposure to many other occupations.” 

Through WOW, students become empowered to march toward the workforce. Employers also gain, Kirk said, because it gives them a recruiting tool to compete with the allure of bigger cities like Birmingham and Atlanta, which Anniston rests roughly halfway between. 

“We want students who grew up in the community to come work in the community in the future,” she said. “These kids don’t know about the different companies in the Anniston area.”  

Igniting a bright future 

Attendees often find the opportunities plentiful. Some learn about construction and manufacturing. Others gain insight into farming or electronics. Causey knew from that day on he wanted to help people. The accompanying adrenaline rush doesn’t hurt. 

“We usually see people at their worst. It feels good to be the answer somebody needs,” he said. “It’s crazy that I get paid to do so many fun things.” 

Now that Causey has found something he likes, he has no intention of leaving. He plans to work his way up the ladder into a position where he has a hand in grooming future firefighters. 

“I have a passion for training, helping educate people so they can grow,” said Causey, who hopes every student who attends in the future will get out of WOW what he did. “It’s the first footsteps into what could be the rest of your life.” 

Eastman is committed to leveraging company resources and strategic partnerships to maximize opportunities for the next generation of creators, problem solvers and leaders. The company will continue as the presenting sponsor for the 2024 Worlds of Work, which will take place March 12–14.