By Emily Sullivan The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The Boyton Beach fire department plans to launch a "Girls' Academy" to attract more women firefighters. The mentoring program will help young women learn the ropes of fire prevention and safety.
There are 10 women on Boynton Beach's 135-person firefighter squad, a ratio similar to departments nationwide and a figure city officials want to help change.
Fire Chief Glenn Joseph announced Tuesday the city's fire department plans to roll out a female mentoring program to help engage young women in a field men have historically dominated, an initiative under leadership of Deputy Chief Latosha Clemons, the city's first black woman firefighter and one who has scaled the ranks.
"Around the country, women represent about 4 percent in the fire service," Joseph said. "It's not a male profession. Anybody can do it. We need smart, brave, strong, dedicated people to make public safety their, their goal."
The fire department's "Girls' Academy" specifics are in the works, but Joseph said the project will attract more women firefighters from the area, including West Palm Beach, whose certified firefighting force is 6.5 percent women, and Boca Raton, at 7 percent.
Joseph called the program "a fun thing, but with a longer-term view."
Financing for the project and two other public safety initiatives for local youth will pull from a fund of annual donations from Christ Fellowship Church, which sits at the Boynton Beach Mall and pays the city $25,000 yearly in place of taxes.
The fund, untouched, collected about $175,000 before city commissioners on Tuesday voted to allocate near $30,000 toward the youth efforts, which will bankroll the "Girls' Academy," a fire department "Explorers" program and a police department teen summit.
Officials expect the "Girls' Academy" pilot will kick off next year, opening doors for 30 young women up to age 18 to learn the ropes of fire prevention, safety and physical fitness from experienced advisers to whom they can relate.
"You have young girls being able to see themselves and identify," said Bob Bender, a Christ Fellowship Church pastor. He said the "Girls' Academy" could reveal public safety as a "pathway" for youth to contribute in the city.
Ty Penserga, a city commissioner who grew among mentorship, said he'd talked with Bender and pushed to launch the public safety programs to extend opportunities to underserved youngsters.
"This is where my heart is," Penserga said. "We're gonna keep track of these kids." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.