Breaking Barriers: Online School Student Pursues Her Dreams of Becoming a Firefighter

4 min to read
Image of fire trucks in a fire station

While the number of women who are firefighters is growing, it is still a predominantly male profession, with the percentage of female firefighters in the United States hovering at just around 4%. 

That isn’t stopping 14-year-old Michigan Connections Academy student Sadie Morgan, an aspiring fire officer who has been dreaming of becoming a firefighter since she was in kindergarten. 

When Sadie learned about the Youth Fire Academy run by the fire department in her hometown of Grand Rapids, she knew she wanted to participate. The week-long program offers firefighting for teens, training students on things like how to do a search and rescue operation, use fire hose lines and fire extinguishers, and perform CPR. The program is designed to help students, especially girls, experience what it's like to be a firefighter so they can decide if it’s a career path they want to pursue. 

Online School Flexibility Allows Students to Pursue Their Passion

As a Connections Academy student, Sadie has the flexibility to explore career opportunities that interest her. Flexible class schedules also offer online school students the freedom to attend programs like the Youth Fire Academy without impacting their studies.  

In addition to the Youth Fire Academy, Sadie is planning to do a ride-along with EMTs to learn more about that career path and then volunteer at the fire department’s headquarters.  

“I’ll be able to watch real firefighters in action, learning what they're doing and just bettering my knowledge about the community and the job,” Sadie shared. 

Sadie dressed up in fire fighter gear

Having the Confidence to Ask Questions

There was a point where Sadie didn’t think she could attend the Youth Fire Academy. It was only for students 15–18 years old, and Sadie was a year shy of the minimum age requirement. 

As an online school student, Sadie is empowered to take charge of her studies, extracurricular activities, and schedule. She was accustomed to connecting with the adults to ask questions. So, Sadie emailed the station to see if the program directors would let her in given her age.  

“They’re probably just going to tell me, ‘We love your interest, but you’ll have to wait until next year,’” she thought. “I was just so surprised when they let me in!” 

Can Women be Firefighters?

Absolutely! Just like women can succeed in professions that have traditionally been male dominated, like military service and policework, girls like Sadie can reach their dreams of becoming firefighters when they grow up.

The Youth Fire Academy took place at the fire department’s training center. Students were run through the same training courses as real firefighters. They also got to wear the real equipment that firefighters use!

Because there are so few women firefighters, the equipment isn’t designed for an average woman’s smaller build. Did you know that there are some fire stations that don’t even have female restrooms?

Sadie was smaller than the other participants at the academy, which made some things difficult when working with the hoses, but also worked to her advantage for other important skills. She was able to jump over obstacles easier and crawl through smaller spaces.  

“I have pretty good leg strength,” said Sadie. “I knew how to use that to help propel myself forward. I was too stubborn to not try my best and not to get it done.”

Sadie’s mom Ella Morgan noted that “as a parent, I was so excited for her but honestly, I was also a little nervous because by the second day, they were running these students in simulations with the air tanks and the smoke-filled rooms and things like that.”

As more girls like Sadie pursue firefighting careers, they are inspiring change in the field to accommodate their needs. 

Preparing for Life After Online High School 

Sadie’s mom, Ella, isn’t surprised that Sadie wants to break barriers by becoming a female firefighter. She knows her daughter was destined to be a trailblazer. 

“Public service will definitely be in her career path, whatever route she chooses,” said Ella. “She will continue this heart of love for others and wanting to care for those that sometimes maybe are overlooked in our community.” 

Sadie still has some time to decide what career she wants to pursue, but as an online school student, she has the freedom to explore her options in a more hands-on and experiential way. 

Read how other online school students are pursuing their passion and preparing for their future careers.   

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