The African American firefighters association introduces Dorsey students to careers in the fire department.
By Jason Lewis
Dorsey High School students who are in the Law and Public Service magnet program are receiving hands-on training from Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) and Los Angeles Country Fire Department (LACFD) firefighters.
The Los Angeles Stentorians and Los Angeles County Stentorians, which are Black firefighters associations, administer the Future Firefighters program twice a week. The students perform exercises and physical drills that firefighters do on a daily basis, and they have classroom lectures where they learn fire safety and first-responders’ skills.
The LAFD and LACFD make great efforts to promote careers in the fire department to minority communities.
“We’re trying to get young men and women interested in the fire department,” said LAFD Inspector Gerald Durant. “We have to start early. We have to change their lifestyle and change their values so that they can make good decisions. And if they want to, they can become firefighters. I think when you start at the high school level, it gives them a goal; it gives them a good place to look forward to meeting.”
Being a part of this program is extremely important for Durant.
“I went to Dorsey (class of 1972), and one of the things that I wanted to bring to Dorsey is something that I didn’t have when I was here,” he said. “Some mentors. Some people who talked different, and gave us a pathway to success. With the Stentorian organization, plus the backing of the fire department, I think we’re making headways right now.”
There is a lengthy process to obtain a job in the fire department, which makes a program such as this an invaluable experience for these students.
“They’ll have a leg up on the competition, because they’ll have a resume,” Durant said. “And that resume will be packed with stuff from learning about the fire department. They’re learning skills that will allow them to transition from being a regular citizen into the fire service.”
This program not only enhances these students’ abilities to obtain a job after high school, it also helps them build character and work ethic.
“I believe it’s about teaching them self discipline; tough discipline,” said Akeba Jackson, Dorsey’s magnet coordinator. “To persevere, to be motivated, and to learn how to work as a team; a team effort outside of athletics. Working as a squadron, learning that they do not leave anyone behind. They learn how to listen to authority, and how to be critical thinkers. These are a lot of things that they need to learn as first responders.”
In African-American communities, there has always been a big push to get children into sports, music, and the arts. But public service careers are not promoted as much.
“This is giving the students another option, and a skill,” Jackson said. “We took them on a tour of the local fire department. They learned how the fire department operates, how they work, how they live together, and how they respond to emergencies. They’re learning first aid and CPR, so not only are they going to be assets to their families, but they’re going to be assets to their school and community incase there is an emergency.”
While there is a push to promote the fire department to minorities, there is also a push to promote careers in the fire department to women. In Dorsey’s program, nine of the 24 participants are girls. In a previous story that appeared in the Los Angeles Standard Newspaper, firefighter TA’Ana Mitchell, also a Dorsey High School graduate (class of 1997), said that she did not consider a career as a firefighter until her late 30s, when she went on a ride-along. Even with her two college degrees, she said that if she had known about the benefits of the fire department when she was younger, she would have joined when she was 18 years old.
The Stentorians also have training sessions for people outside of high school. They have a free intro to the fire department course at their headquarters, which is on the corner of Vernon Avenue and Normandie Avenue. That program is open to the public, and introduces people to the physical requirements of the job.