For Corrimal High School year 7 student Matthew Cox, the choice between taking part in PE classes or training with the Rural Fire Service was easy.
Before becoming involved in the term 3 program, Matthew said he'd had little idea about what the RFS actually did.
"It's been good being able to understand how to keep safe and getting to go in the truck," he said.
On Thursday, Matthew joined 14 of his schoolmates for a graduation ceremony at the RFS Illawarra headquarters where students showed off their recently gained skills.
RFS Illawarra Superintendent Richard Cotterill said students were often surprised when they realised the service was almost entirely made up of volunteers.
"Going into the program, there's not a great awareness of the volunteering effort in the community," he said.
"We encourage them to adopt an attitude that volunteerism adds a great deal of richness to the community."
It was the first time the cadet program was offered at Corrimal High School.
Supt Cotterill said that since the statewide program was introduced about five years ago, nearly 900 NSW cadets had graduated.
"It's encouraging to see these students engaging in the program and they've all exhibited a high level of commitment," he said.
"I believe the cadet program will benefit not only the Rural Fire Service but also the students, as they learn and apply skills and attitudes that they can use in the future."