First responder training in Mesa helps girls break barriers

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A special academy in Mesa helps girls learn about becoming first responders. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A special academy in Mesa helps girls learn about becoming first responders. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Aspire Academy is for girls all over the Valley. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Aspire Academy is for girls all over the Valley. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The girls drove a simulated fire truck, took part in a high-speed chase and repelled down a building. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The girls drove a simulated fire truck, took part in a high-speed chase and repelled down a building. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

With the wail of fire engine sirens, the squeal of police car tires and the screams of high school girls, they had all the makings of a major emergency in Mesa on Wednesday.

Until you realized they were not screams of terror but pure excitement.

“That was amazing, that first curve caught me off guard. It was amazing, it was a great experience,” said 16-year-old Sabrinna Rodriguez as she got out from a police car that had just run a high-speed obstacle course, complete with heart-stopping skids. 

“It was crazy. It feels even faster than it looks," added high school student Holly Hogstra.

And while they were having plenty of it, these girls weren't at the Mesa Fire Training Academy just to have fun. They there for something called the Aspire Academy. 

“The Aspire Academy is for girls all over the Valley, high school age girls that is [sic] affiliated with the Girl Scouts and the local agencies around here. And it teaches the girls a lot of life skills. They are maybe interested in first responder careers in the future,” explained Chandler police Det. Nikky Kallberg.

Girls like Rodriguez.

“I want to be a paramedic, so I was, hey, this would be a good opportunity for me to go in and experience how it would be,” said Rodriguez.

Over the last four days, Rodriguez and her classmates have undergone rigorous first responder training.

“I experienced a lot about what the firefighters do, how they suit up, how they go into buildings with emergencies and the medical side of how to treat wounds, head injuries and stuff like that,” Rodriguez says.  

Along with driving a simulated fire truck, taking part in a high-speed chase or repelling down a building, they are building character.

“The repelling was actually the funnest [sic] part,” says Rodriguez, “since it got me out of my comfort zone. Just like all the leaders here tell us, 'Get out of your comfort zone, experience things put a little bit of risk in.'”

Kallberg says those types of experiences make all of the girls here stronger.

“I think girls at first may be a little intimidated by the things they are doing, whether it is repelling or getting into a car and doing some of these crazy things. But I think it helps them understand a lot more of what first responders do on both sides. But then it helps them understand they can overcome some of those fears and challenges that they think might be a challenge, but, then realize it really is not it is fun and exciting.”

The academy is led by women, first-responders like Kallberg. They are real-life role models preparing these girls to respond to whatever life throws their way.

“It is really warming to see not just men can do it, women can do the same things men can do and there are no boundaries and if there are boundaries you can go through them and break them,” said Rodriguez with a smile.

The Academy is run in conjunction with the Girl Scouts. For more info: Please contact Justina Burks with the Girl Scouts at Jburks@girlscoutsaz.org or call at (602) 452-7138.

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