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Westchester County's Girls On Fire Initiative Offers Teenage Girls Hands-On Experience In Emergency Services

VALHALLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A new effort is underway in Westchester County to introduce young girls to careers as first responders.

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis met the New Rochelle teens and potential future firefighters taking part in this opportunity.

From learning how to perform CPR to stopping severe bleeding, 20 teens are getting hands-on experience in emergency services through the new Girls On Fire initiative.

"I thought that was so cool because I had always wanted to do something helping others," participant Maya Concha said.

"Great team bonding, confidence in young ladies," participant Dasia Davis said.

It's a collaboration between the New Rochelle Fire Department, the city's Youth Bureau and the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services to, as their slogan goes, "create a spark in the minds of young girls."

"They can take these tests and do the job, and they're capable of doing it just like the men are," said Luci Labriola-Cuffe, chief of fire training for the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services.

Labriola-Cuffe is a role model for the teens.

"Women in the fire service in general, especially on the career side, is not very strong in Westchester. Right now, there's currently only five career firefighters," she said.

In New Rochelle, there are no female firefighters.

"This is huge for the community, for the fire department ... to give them the idea that they can make this a career," New Rochelle Fire Chief Andrew Sandor said.

While learning about fire, dispatch, emergency management, EMS and more, the girls are also getting paid.

"Out of all the different youth employment opportunities that we do, this is our first learn-and-earn, so this one becomes special," said Kelly Johnson, executive director of the New Rochelle Youth Bureau.

The county executive presented the young women with certificates for their dedication to the six-week program, hoping one day, it will spark a career.

"This training definitely has made me wanna become more," Dasia said.

"I've learned especially about EMS and EMT training, and I think that that's something really cool that I would like to do," Maya said.

While this is the first summer for the Girls on Fire initiative, we're told it won't be the last. In fact, organizers are even looking at ways to expand it.

The executive director of the New Rochelle Youth Bureau says the city manager provided funds in the budget this year for this learn-and-earn initiative.

The girls get paid $14 an hour and meet four days a week.

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