The Arby’s Foundation continued its efforts to develop youth leadership through a partnership with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation, which recently hosted an immersive, three-day fire and rescue training program called Camp Ignite.
Camp Ignite was developed to help prepare and inform young women about career opportunities in fire and rescue, while also gaining important hands-on experience in the field. Currently, women make up only four percent of professional fire service nationally. That’s why Shirley Anne Smith, the Executive Director of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation, saw an immediate need to launch the program with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
“As we looked back at who was applying to our fire department, we realized that there was a shortage in terms of underserved communities. That’s women, Latina and members of the LGBTQ community.
We felt that we needed to support the department in terms of its diversity recruitment, as well as reaching out to younger members of the community.” Shirley Anne Smith, Executive Director, Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation
While the program was developed to prepare young women for a potential career in fire and rescue, Camp Ignite also teaches skills that can be used in any career path.
“The activities in firefighting that we were very heavily focused on is what we called CPAT: Certified Physical Agility Test. The CPAT right now is the number one thing that keeps women from being successful in an application process. That’s the physical exam that they have to take for entry into firefighting,” Shirley Anne said.
“We also went through an activity on how to prepare for an interview and how to write a resume. We taught them team-building skills and had a segment called ‘girls fire talk,’ where we focused on how to handle the social pressures that girls are facing today, whether it’s social media, bullying, or potentially becoming a victim of sexual human trafficking.”
Camp Ignite was scheduled over the Atlanta Public School system’s winter break in an effort to get women aged 14-18 years old involved as early as possible in fire and rescue.
“We want to be able to reach out to individuals that are younger and naturally interested in this career. We want to reach them, not when they turn 21, but when they are in high school and still have time to take the necessary steps in order to be a successful applicant,” Shirley Anne said.
Looking ahead, Camp Ignite will become one program of a two-part Junior Firefighter Academy. Camp Ignite will remain geared towards young women, while a cadet program will include both men and women in high school.