July 13, 2017 4:39 pm
Updated: March 19, 2019 10:44 am

‘Empowering’: N.S. high school women experience front lines of emergency response

WATCH: In 2006, one female firefighter created a camp for high school girls aimed at giving them hands on experience with situations emergency first responders deal with on a daily basis. Alexa MacLean tells us more.

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Getting a front-row seat to a police dog training session was a life changing experience for 17-year-old Lauren Humes.

“It amazes me that animals can do that and that you can train an animal to focus so hard on something,” she said.

Humes was one of 24 high school women selected to participate in Camp Courage.

READ MORE: Camp Courage girls get glimpse of life as a firefighter

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The eight day program introduces young women to careers in emergency first response.

Andréa Speranza, camp founder and fire captain, created the opportunity in 2006 when she launched “The First Responders Society,” a non-profit company.

“The reason why I started the camp is because it’s everything I would have loved to do when I was a kid,” Speranza said.

When Speranza began her early days as a firefighter, she was one of the only females working in the field.

“When I joined the Fire Department, we had less than two per cent females. So, at that time you take whoever is going to be your mentor, whoever will show you the ropes and it was all men,” she said.

Realizing the value mentors had on her development, she wanted to connect young women with the front lines of emergency response.

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She also wanted them to have an opportunity to hear and learn from female paramedics, firefighters and police officers.

“You don’t realize how hard it is sometimes, in the workplace for women. Especially in these roles because it’s usually male dominated roles,” Humes said.

Humes says hearing stories directly from women who serve on the front lines was inspiring.

“To hear them speak about their experience and kind of the discrimination that they’ve experienced, just because their women, it’s hard but it’s empowering,” she said.

Humes was also moved by the presentation Const. Kevin MacDonald, of the Halifax Regional Police [HRP] force, gave with his partner, Nico.

“The animal will only respond to him, like if they’re on a call and another police officer calls out a command to the dog, the dog will not listen,” Humes said.

READ MORE: Gender equality would boost Canadian GDP by $150B: report

MacDonald is one of nine K-9 handlers in the force and it’s his second year participating in Camp Courage.

Currently all of the nine handlers with HRP are males but MacDonald encourages all of the young women with an interest in the K-9 unit to pursue their ambition.

“It’s more of a lifestyle than a job. You need to maintain good health, exercise and you have to be positive all the time because all that positive energy feeds off the dog,” MacDonald said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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