Climbing The Ladder: New Minneapolis Fire Dept. Program Works to Improve Diversity |

Climbing The Ladder: New Minneapolis Fire Dept. Program Works to Improve Diversity

September 29, 2016 10:37 AM

The Minneapolis Fire Department launched the EMS Pathways Academy along with Hennepin County EMS earlier this year in hopes of finding firefighters and medics who might not have tried to join the ranks.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS followed the class of 23 students from their early days in the classroom, high-stress drills at city’s training center,  to riding along with Minneapolis Firefighters out on the streets on actual 911 medical calls.

"A lot of our recruitment has fallen short in as far as sustainability for the diversity we work so hard to achieve", said Fire Chief John Fruetel. “By creating this ‘pathways academy’ it’s another way for us to tap into the unique diversity we have in this community."

More than 70 percent of the Minneapolis Fire Department is white, and 88 percent are men, according to the MFD 2015 personnel summary.

The MFD program is quite different than others of its kind because the top six graduates in the program could earn spots in the next fire academy, therefore, bypassing the civil servants exam.

"If we can touch a young man or woman before they make that unfortunate decision that impacts them for the rest of their lives, to consider something else that is really, really important," said Fruetel.

"I'd be a role model for my son, a role model for my community,’ said Deandre Harris. “It's a big deal, without it I'm not sure how effective I'll be for what I want out of life."

Harris, a single-father, signed up for the EMS Pathways Academy earlier this year in hopes he’d make the fire academy.

Harris works as a trainer in a gym in Hopkins, where he often brings his son along to wait while he meets with clients.

"It's a big life changer,” said Harris.

The 180 hour class was run with instructors from MFD and Hennepin EMS, where 12 of the students eventually received their national EMT certification.

"It's been a very stressful time, it's great to have this weight off my shoulders," said EMS student Celia Thomas.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS met Thomas when the class started, the single-mother of two girls, was working to become an EMT with hopes of making the fire academy.

Thomas graduated at the top of her class earning a national certification, but was not able to complete the physical test to make the jump right into MFD’s academy.

"I almost had it, if I pushed myself harder, I just couldn't," said Thomas.

EMS Pathways Academy and its supporters helped Thomas continue her training by granting a paramedic program scholarship.

"I’m not longer a statistic; I have a future, a career path and something I’m going to be,” said Thomas after learning she received a paramedic scholarship from the program.

Harris said his son was very excited to know his dad was one of four students from the class accepted into the Minneapolis Fire Academy that started Sept. 12.

"He's already excited, he's already saying he wants to grow up and be one too,” said Harris. “That’s a positive influence which is what I'm really reaching for."

MFD received $50,000 from the Minneapolis Foundation, and $50,000 was added to their budget by the City to be used in their pathways programs, along with help from with Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) to run the program.

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Eric Chaloux

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