OHIO – According to the US Department of labor, there are over one million first responders in the US, but white males make up the majority of that population.
In many cases, less than 10 percent are minorities.
- 3 out of 4 EMTs and paramedics are men
- 7 out of 8 police officers are men
- 19 out of 20 firefighters are men
Enter the 3-week first responder training Academy, led by project manager Terry Muff.
Since there is a shortage of women and minorities in first responder jobs, they want to make sure they invest in kids now, to help fill some of those gaps later.
Now in its fourth year, Muff says the three-week Academy prepares kids in a unique way.
"They put the fire out. They transport people. They actively act as police officers. So, this is geared to introduce them to that, said Muff."
A four year, $1.4 million grant from Key Bank is helping to ensure that.
What they're experiencing here is important, especially for minorities, because they're not always exposed to careers like this using hands-on experience.
"I learned that I can handle a lot more than I thought for sure, I mean putting on the packs and stuff like that and walking through the smoke, it was definitely more than I thought I could handle, but I was able to do it, said participant Aimee Hobrath."
Another participant, Michale Siemen said, "It was really a turning experience ...because I came here thinking, oh I want to be a police officer, state trooper, sheriff whatever, and then really, now I'm like way leaning towards fire and EMS."
While these are real-life training scenarios, the student responses are also real and encouraging as they look to become first responders.
"I like that feeling of helping a person and knowing that they can rely on me and that I'm that safety net in case they need it, said Hobrath."
Traeshaun Davis, a senior participant from Warrensville Heights HS said, "It means a lot to me 'cause I know that we are a minority in the fire and EMS sections, so it made me really happy that I was stretched out to this opportunity to be able to do this today."
For 16-year-olds like Ja'viere Hairston, they're hoping to help change that picture.
"It means a lot to see if I can help other people like me...and even if they're not like me, I can still help 'em," said Hairston.
And if they can help someone along the way, whether it's a friend, relative, or a stranger, while pursuing a pathway they only dreamed of or talked about until now, that's what really matters most.