EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Aout 15 teenage girls under the age of 19 participated this week in a first-ever confidence and leadership camp put on by the Eugene Fire and EMS Departments.
Aimed to instill team work skills, the opportunity allows young women to try firefighting first hand. On the first day, the girls learned the ins and outs of the career. They learned about the gear firefighters wear, went rope rappelling, and played out emergency medical response scenarios. Two days in, the girls were fighting their fears by fighting fire.
Counselors say the girls really faced their fears in the camp by trying new things and stepping outside their comfort zones. On the first day, most of them remained quiet and reserved – but that all changed halfway through the program. All of the counselors were female firefighters and motivated the young ladies by showing them that they can do anything they put their mind to. Firefighter Carolyn McCann said as a woman who is 5’5,” she often proved the girls they could do anything since she could.
There is a huge importance for a camp like this – specifically for this age group and gender – since girls often feel intimidated by working around guys and feeling obligated to compete.
"They have just their own place to be confident and feel confident, and doing things they might not ordinarily do. We've got girls doing pull ups that they've never even tried before and now they're wanting to do them, which is amazing and just doing non-traditional things is just always a good thing,” McCann said.
The camp is the brainchild of Fire Captain Jean Woodrich who brought it back after a seminar in Chicago. She felt an interactive program like this would allow girls to try out a career before having to make that big decision. She was exactly right.
The camp, which is free, let Brittney Lethlean and Tanaya Emary try new things. They say they plan to return next year and help others go through the program. They said everyday, the firefighters welcomed them to the station and were happy to show them anything they were interested in. Besides that, the group’s perspective on the career changed a little.
“not just firefighters….changing career paths”
All of the changing perspectives for the girls, though, came through the encouragement to try something new, something they wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to.
"They want to see how far you can push yourself. It just gives you the opportunity to experience new things...it's great."
The targeted age group is also perfect for recruiting. As young women, the girls said they already see different careers as male-dominated or female-oriented.
“There's not many girls who want to be firefighters or think they can be firefighters. Guys say, ‘you can't be a firefighter you're a female! Girls can’t do anything.’ But we come here and it’s like...yeah, we can do probably more than you can do,” Lethlean said.
This program is the only one held this summer, although area adults are already showing similar interest. They plan to hold another session next summer and hope it remains free, depending on the funding.