The Firefighter Youth Academy is a youth development and mentoring program born out of the experience of everyday professional firefighters in Richmond, California. The program provides life guidance and career exploration for youth who are at risk of social, academic, and/or economic challenges. The fundamental principles of the Firefighter Youth Academy are academic achievement, community service and self-discipline. The initial site has been operating in Richmond for over 20 years and has yielded measurable results with multiple community benefits. In response to requests from other municipalities to replicate these results and benefits in their communities, Support For Actively Rising Youth (SFARY), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, will partner with local fire departments and school districts to serve youth of the most socio-economically challenged communities. We know that many youth are naturally intrigued by the activities of firefighters and respect our presence in the community. We will use that curiosity as a way to draw youth who reside in these distressed neighborhoods to the academy, where they will learn about firefighting, receive mentoring and encouragement to graduate from high school, and pursue higher education. Firefighters and other positive role models from the community spend time mentoring, motivating, and inspiring youth. Key performance indicators include improved academic performance, social behavior, and civic contribution. The anticipated outcome is that participants will graduate from high school, continue their education, and increase their ability to secure meaningful employment in the fire service as a Paramedic/Firefighter or another chosen profession.
The Firefighter Youth Academy is different from many of the other programs that are made available by fire service agencies today. In addition to providing exploration into the career of firefighting and utilizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts, our curriculum further serves to develop the character of the participant. Positive role models from the fire department mentor cadets in a coaching style to promote some of the core factors that enable youth to become productive, socially responsible adults.