16-year-old Kailey Nenque-Cazares spent Saturday crawling in the smoke of a theater and learning to practice CPR with 120 other girls who attended the San Antonio Fire Department’s second #HeroLikeHer camp.
While Kailey doesn’t want to become a firefighter, the aspiring nurse took the opportunity to develop basic medical skills and build relationships with female role models at SAFD. After all, that is the goal of the two-day fire department camps: to empower girls and expose them to the firefighter profession with hands-on experience, said Woody Woodward, spokesperson for SAFD.
“It occurred to us that no one ever talks to our young women about being a firefighter,” he said. “We launched #HeroLikeHer not as a ‘help wanted’ sign but as a relationship tool to inspire women to think about careers they might not normally think of, be it firefighting or otherwise. thing.”
The SAFD launched the #HeroLikeHer camps in 2019, suspending the program last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Woodward said. This year, the four weekend camps for girls ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 17 filled up in 48 hours. The first camp started on Saturday at the SAFD Training Academy, with activities ranging from a mock house fire to mass medical training.
Roberta Cancio, fire engineer and paramedic, said the camps are important because they give girls the skills and confidence to go out and take on any challenges they may face, while exposing them to a male dominated field. . She said she ended up joining the fire department as an emergency medical technician (EMT) almost by accident. She wanted to be a nurse but took EMT training to be “more marketable”. Cancio went through the firefighting academy and worked for SAFD for three years before going to work in an emergency room. She stayed there for three years before joining the SAFD.
“I missed the shot,” Cancio said. “I like being able to be outside and being able to help people outside the hospital.”
Firefighter Emily Leffler worked on the obstacle course meant to give campers a “taste of what it would be like in a fire,” showing the girls how to carry a fire hose and shoot down a traffic cone with the spray. She said she was discouraged when she was young to pursue a career as a firefighter. People told him, “It’s a guy’s job. That’s why she thinks #HeroLikeHer camps are vital.
“It’s important to show girls the sky is the limit,” Leffler said. “It’s important to show them that they can do it.
For Kailey, the camp has opened her eyes again to what she can do. She recognized the need for more female leaders in medicine when she began attending the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) medical high school. The guest speakers inspired her to pursue a career in medicine, and now the female firefighters have shown her what else she can accomplish in life.
“I didn’t know it was a possibility for me,” she said.