Aiming High and Saving Lives

After five months of intensive classroom and in-the-field training, it’s graduation day for the first class of EMT LA students. The program is a partnership between the Office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Workers Education and Resource Center with funding support from the California Endowment.

“This pilot program is a win-win. Our young men of color deserve access to the best opportunities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “And our communities deserve first rate emergency medical technicians.”

On the heels of a successful recent program in Alameda County, 21 young men from Los Angeles County’s Second District and their accountability partners, made up of parents, friends or significant others, participated in the orientation and kickoff at Central Baptist Church in Carson. Representatives from the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, and Fire were on hand to provide words of wisdom and to participate in the launch of the program.

“In my neighborhood, my friends don’t know it’s possible to become a fire-fighter,” said Renard Page, a program participant.

The five month intensive program included technical skill development, life skill building and culminated with EMT certification. The young men selected through a rigorous application process earned a training stipend of $1,200 per month.

“The goal is to invest in young men so the return can be paid back to this community,” said Kenneth Lee from the LA County Fire Department.

The graduation was marked by a joyful celebration with family and friends and reflections from the graduates.

“This program changed the way we respond to people,” said Renard Page.

“As hard as you worked to get here, you have to continue to get to where you’re going and once you get there to stay,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby during the graduation ceremony.

This group is the first of three groups that will participate in the pilot program in Los Angeles County’s Second District over the next two years.

“It’s important for this program to continue because it shows there’s hope,” said Raul Cuellar, the valedictorian of the first graduating class.