LEWISTON, Maine — Spencer Simoneau, 18, will graduate from Lewiston High School on Friday knowing he wants to become a police officer or firefighter after college.

He has a head start. He’s already a professional firefighter with the Poland Fire Department.

Simoneau plans to attend Southern Maine Community College this fall while working as a Standish firefighter, which will give him both an income and place to live.

His interest in first responder work didn’t come from his parents, Kevin and Robin Simoneau, he said with a smile. His father is a funeral director; his mother works for FedEx.

It stems from witnessing a car crash when he was in the eighth grade.

“A truck was coming down College Street; it hit a car that ran a red light. I saw the whole thing,” he said.

He was impressed by the emergency responders, which got him thinking about becoming an EMT.

At age 15 he took a five-month EMT course at Tri-County EMS. “I learned so much,” he said. He passed a state test, but did not pursue national certification. Because he was so young, “no fire department would hire me,” Simoneau said.

The next winter he became a member of the ski patrol at Lost Valley in Auburn. The first year he was a volunteer, then a paid staffer.

His interest shifted from EMT to firefighter. At 16, he began his involvement with the Poland Fire Department. He couldn’t become a certified firefighter until 18, but the department helped him become a junior firefighter, Chief Mark Bosse said.

By the time Simoneau turned 18 this spring he had become certified with Poland’s help. In April, he passed his Firefighter I and II exams, meaning he was a professional.

“He’s really enthusiastic,” Bosse said. “He wanted to learn. He wanted to get on those firetrucks. We had to hold him back.”

In his second year with Poland, “He’s done a good job,” Bosse said. “He really has a passion for helping people.” It’s unusual for someone that young to be a professional firefighter. “It usually takes a little longer.”

Now, “I want to become a cop,” Simoneau said. He’s enrolled in the law enforcement class at Lewiston Regional Technician Center and will study law enforcement at SMCC.

He said he likes his LRTC class taught by former Lewiston Deputy Chief Andy D’Eramo. “We’ve learned a lot of stuff, take-downs, a lot of the laws with motor vehicles, criminal laws,” Simoneau said.

Last week, Simoneau said he was pepper-sprayed “to see what it’s like. It was the worst experience ever. You run for the bucket of water. It wears off in a half-hour.”

What attracts him to first responder work, Simoneau said, is having an ability to help people, the adrenaline and being part of a team. At the Poland Fire Department, “we’re all family.”

After college he hopes to be hired as a police officer or firefighter in the Lewiston-Auburn area. “My ultimate goal at some point is to become a fire marshal. You need both police and fire department background for that.”

His advice for high school students: “Figure out what you want to do before college.”

There are ways to start careers in high school and earn college credit, whether it’s a doctor or police officer, Simoneau said. He’s earned 12 college credits from his LRTC law enforcement class and firefighter work.

“So many kids go to college for general studies because they don’t know what they want to do,” he said. “To me, that’s a waste of money.”