Friday, September 26, 2014

EDUCATION - Lifesaving Training, Changes Outlook for Young Men

"Lifesaving training changes outlook for young men in Oakland" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last month cast a harsh spotlight on how a majority black city came to have so few black law enforcement officers.  In fact, in many communities around the country, police, fire and paramedic services remain predominantly white, no matter what the communities they protect look like.

In Oakland, California, a new effort is under way to change those statistics, and give young men of color new career opportunities.

Sarah Varney of Kaiser Health News collaborated with the NewsHour on this report.

SARAH VARNEY, Kaiser Health News:  Twenty-two-year-old Dexter Harris, who lives with his aunt near Oakland, California, is getting ready for a 12-hour shift as an emergency medical technician, or EMT, an entry-level job in the paramedic field.

Harris works full-time and supports himself and some of his family members.  But when he was younger, his life was headed in a very different direction.

DEXTER HARRIS:  I just thought I could just run around in the streets and make a living off that.  If you grew up like me, my house — home was kind of rocky.  You didn’t have somebody telling you, oh, you can be whatever you want to be.  You could be a doctor.  You could be a lawyer.  So you kind of start just looking up to the wrong people.

SARAH VARNEY:  Harris spent nine months in a juvenile detention center when he was 17, a common experience for many young men of color in Alameda County, which includes Oakland.

Here, black and Latino youth account for nearly 90 percent of those detained in juvenile hall.  And school dropout and unemployment rates for that population are among the highest in the country.  But while he was in juvenile hall, Harris’ life took a dramatic turn when he was recruited for a new county program that not only trained him how to be an EMT, but profoundly altered what he thought he could do with his life.

WOMAN:  Come on.

MAN:  One, two, three, four, five, six.

SARAH VARNEY:  The program is called EMS Corps.  And on a recent afternoon, 25 students in the current class were practicing basic life support skills under the watchful eye of instructor Maria Garcina (ph).

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