Last year, Cambridge Firefighter Timothy Norton came up with an idea to educate local teens about the work of the Cambridge Fire Department.
Working with firefighters Craig Yearwood, Nicole Signoretti, and Captain Jeremy Walsh, the group developed an innovative Youth Fire Academy which provides participants with an incredible opportunity to learn the ins and outs of firefighting and emergency medical services.
“Their experiences are about as close to real life as it can get,” said Norton, a native of North Cambridge. “Our participants gain a personal sense of accomplishment upon completing this academy and experience a lot of what actual fire academy recruits endure.”
The Youth Fire Academy is now part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) which each year provides summer jobs to over 1,000 young people ages 14-18. A product of MSYEP himself, Norton recalls the incredible experience he gained as a Cambridge youth.
Over the course of 6 weeks, 20 youth participants get hands-on training in core firefighter’s skills – like hose line advancement and operation, vehicle extrication, water rescue, and emergency medical care. Learning also includes emergency medical simulations where participants initiates life-saving treatment in the field, transports their “patients” to Mount Auburn Hospital via program partner Professional Ambulance, and even practices patient transfer with Emergency Room doctors at Mount Auburn Hospital.
Building Career Ladders
“We are hopeful that the Youth Academy will serve as a recruiting tool for future Cambridge firefighters” – Acting Fire Chief Gerard Mahoney.
And Chief Mahoney just may get his wish because at least six of the participants have serious intentions to pursue a career as a Cambridge firefighter upon graduation from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School next year. In fact, Squad Leaders Hadari Binda and Mystique Cavanaugh plan to take the Civil Service Entry Exam upon graduation.
Impacting Youth Lives
As a young boy, Binda had visited his cousin at the firehouse where he worked and became interested early on. “MSYEP helped me get my foot in the door and gain this great experience that made me even surer that becoming a firefighter was what I wanted to do with my life,” Binda said.
Cavanaugh used to watch TV shows about firefighting when she was younger and always thought it was more of a job for men until she met some of the female firefighters at the Cambridge Fire Department and realized that this was something she could pursue.
“I was so thankful for the opportunity to work with these firefighters and participate in this program,” said Cavanaugh, adding that after graduation she planned on becoming a paramedic, and then going on to become a firefighter.
“We hope our Youth Academy participants come out of this program with the same kind of commitment that Cambridge Firefighters have for serving their community,” said Norton, adding “we are already working on more new projects aimed at engaging Cambridge youth on becoming career firefighters.”