Have you ever met an active teacher, published author or volunteer firefighter? Of course, you may have encountered each of them individually. But if you put all three together, you have Sarah Kollat.
Not only does Kollat teach developmental psychology full-time at Penn State, but the 41-year-old has also written five published novels and can confidently put out a fire with the rest of her team.
Kollat grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and never imagined she would become a firefighter. Now, with State College’s Alpha Fire Company, she is part of one of Pennsylvania’s largest volunteer fire departments.
“Firefighting wasn’t something on my radar at all,” Kollat said laughing. “It wasn’t something I thought I could do.”
Kollat’s high school sweetheart, Joshua, joined Alpha Fire Company before the pandemic hit, which gave her the idea and motivated her to join. The adventurous couple spend their days working out and making calls together, and Kollat believes that makes them stronger.
“Working together in such dangerous circumstances – it’s just that total level of trust,” Kollat said. “I know I can count on him to be my teammate.”
Kollat is currently engine and salvage qualified, leaving only truck certification. Once she completes her truck training, she will be considered a “master firefighter,” the highest level in the department.
For Gregory Guise, former journalist and current photographer for Alpha Fire Company, Kollat’s dedication is what stands out above all else.
“What really impresses me is the amount of time people from all walks of life devote to retaining our department,” Guise said.
During the summer, Kollat finds herself writing at the train station to nurture her creative side. Her most recent novel, “The Good Life,” is a 279-page psychological thriller.
“I thought I liked writing, and I found a publisher who was willing to publish [the novels]“, said Kollat.
Despite all of this, Kollat said she doesn’t feel too busy. She and her husband always find a way to go to bed at 9:30 p.m., which is a pretty impressive feat.
The couple have three children: Ethan (22), Katherine (20) and Eli (18). Although they act nonchalant towards Kollat, she thinks they are secretly bragging about their firefighter parents to friends. If they do, could you really blame them?
Alpha Fire Company has 106 active members, of which just over 20% are student volunteers. While the group is dominated by men, Kollat still feels she couldn’t be more comfortable.
“I’ve never encountered more equity, gender-wise, than at Alpha,” Kollat said. “They don’t care if you’re male or female or whatever gender you are. They just want you to do the job and be a safe firefighter.
Kollat works hard every day to make his lieutenants and colleagues proud. Jarod Depp, a recent graduate from Penn State, is a fire master in the department and became close to Kollat when she joined as a trainee member. Her never-give-up attitude has caught Depp’s attention ever since they met.
“She never left [being female] get in her way, and she’s always been someone who’s going to give 120% until it’s physically impossible for her to do so,” Depp said.
Kollat explained that her love for learning describes who she is and makes her a dedicated teacher and firefighter.
“[I am] always learning as a teacher, and there is always more to learn as a firefighter,” she said. “That’s how they relate.”
She loves all of her hobbies, whether she’s in her gear, tutoring her students, or writing her new thriller. However, working with Alpha holds a special place in his heart.
“If you ask a firefighter what he wants to do [on their ideal day], they want to fight the fires,” Kollat said. “It feels good when you work hard and are able to make a difference.”