Creating the Next Wave of SuperWomen
An agent of change in the community, Jennifer Roman always knew she wanted to be in a profession that helps people. As a Madison Fire Department captain, Madison College faculty member and 25-year Girl Scout volunteer, Roman decided to change the gender gap in the protective services one girl at a time.
Females comprise only 35 percent of EMTs, 12 percent of police officers and 3.4 percent of firefighters. Roman researched the influences on career choice and, armed with her newfound knowledge, assembled a group of protective service professionals and Girl Scout staff to create CampHERO, an experience for girls K-12 that helps them build courage, character and confidence.
“We’re helping girls challenge the common belief in society that they cannot be successful first responders. Working to change that perception and help girls build confidence in themselves is incredibly meaningful,” says Roman who added a mentor network to CampHERO that helps foster relationships and provide a way for girls and women to get guidance. This addition expanded the camp activities to include fitness programs, career counseling and college credit.
Girls from all over the U.S. attend the camp to learn skills, take part in simulated experiences and build confidence that they can take home and pursue careers as first responders in their communities. Some of the activities for younger campers include using a hose to fight a simulated fire and learning how to dial 9-1-1. Older campers use the ‘Jaws of Life’ to rescue a mannequin from a car in a simulated accident, get CPR- certified and diagram a crime scene, among other activities.
Roman mobilized over 120 volunteers to work with CampHERO and in the first two years, more than 330 girls attended the camp. Her fundraising efforts keep the camp affordable and accessible for all girls. And when it comes to bringing in resources to support her camp, she describes herself as never being afraid to ask for volunteers to pitch in. Through years of creating and sustaining relationships in her community – with firefighters, police officers, paramedics and others – Roman built up the currency she needed to recruit talented teachers, passionate about their work, who could make CampHERO a reality.
When she undertook this mission, her singular thought was, “what can we do to make girls believe they can do anything?” Roman believes her work is helping challenge a societal norm: that girls cannot be successful as first responders. She sees gender bias in fire services more than other protective services and points to a trend that fewer women work in fire services today than 10 years ago. For Roman, working to change that trend is meaningful.
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