EXCLUSIVE: Look inside Bay Area nonprofit helping youth of color become EMTs

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A pilot program offered by City EMT, a nonprofit organization targeting poverty by providing young adults with workforce training, has launched its inaugural class.

These hands-on EMT skills will hopefully not only save lives but change the lives of the young people learning them.

A cohort of 14 Black, Latinx, and Asian-Pacific Islander students from Bayview, Hunters Point, and the Fillmore District is a part of City EMT's pilot program.

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Attica Bowden, Chief in the fire prevention division of the San Francisco Fire Department, founded the nonprofit in 2018 and gave ABC7 News Race and Culture Reporter Julian Glover exclusive access to the first class of students.

"That's changing the trajectory of somebody's life," said Bowden, "We fold you into a program that gives you the motivation and the inside look to say, 'okay, I can do that. That, too, can be me.'"

The four-month career training program is now in its fifth week.

It provides students ages 18 to 24 with the knowledge to earn an EMT certification after graduation in May.

The goal is job placement in the city's fire department, contracted ambulance services, or beyond.

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"Okay, you got a job as an EMT, don't you want to be a medic? Okay, you're a medic, don't you want to be a physician's assistant? You're a physician's assistant you might as well be a doctor," said Bowden.

Bowden credits her own success and ascension through the ranks of the fire department to similar city initiatives that gave her a first job and workforce training when she was a teen growing up in the Fillmore, Western Addition neighborhood.

The program is funded by the Opportunities for All Initiative through San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Opportunities for All (OFA) provides paid internships, mentorship, and pathways to employment, including job readiness, career training, and apprenticeship for participants of San Francisco youth ages 13 to 24.

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Performing Stars is a non-profit helping underserved kids in Marin County achieve their potential. The organization hosted an event for Black History Month at Lucasfilm where students learned about the Tuskegee airmen.



City EMT and the funding provided through OFA is an example of the programs that will be made possible by Mayor Breed's "Dream Keeper Initiative," according to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Following weeks of nationwide protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, San Francisco City Leaders pledged greater investment in Black and other marginalized communities to correct systemic issues causing disparate outcomes.

Last week, San Francisco Mayor London Breed's office announced the "Dream Keeper Initiative" to improve outcomes for Black families in the city.

The initiative will be funded with $120 million over the next two years by money diverted from the San Francisco Police Department budget.

Of the $60 million allocated for fiscal year 2020-21, $4.8 million is earmarked for city employment pipelines, $6 million for workforce training and development, and $7 million in guaranteed income.

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Breed surprised the cohort of students on the first day of training with news they would each receive $3,000 a month in a stipend while completing the program -- a part of a guaranteed income pilot.

"We are being very intentional about a core group of young people and saying, is everyone housed? Is everyone fed? Do they have a job? Do they have a steady income? Do they have opportunity for economic mobility? And using that core group to inform really a structural systemic change over time," said Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

According to Davis, more than 60 meetings and forums with residents and stakeholders helped inform how the Dream Keeper Initiative dollars would be spent.

She said the guaranteed income by way of a stipend will help keep the students focused and increase the likelihood they will complete the training and go on to be placed in jobs making a livable wage.

"We want people to not have a hesitation and be worried about if they are a single parent, whether they're going to be able to pay for childcare in order to be able to get to the program, or whether they're going to be able to eat lunch," Davis said.

Bowden hopes her program helps increase the struggling number of Black people in the city's emergency medical services and changes the streets of the neighborhood she grew up in and now serves.

"I won't even be a part of the full fruit of what we've taught them, but I know what I've given it to them and that is gonna matter not just to them, but hopefully to the generations to come," said Bowden.

City EMT is modeled after EMS Corp, a similar program across the Bay in Alameda County.

For more information about the program click here.
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