In celebration of #InternationalGirlsDay2020, BGCWPA will be highlighting some of our incredible young female Clubhouse members. A global occasion dedicated to highlighting the challenges girls face and promoting their empowerment, International Girls Day is celebrated every day at BGCWPA as we advocate for a girls’ life free from gender-based violence, access to health, skills, recognition and investment as leaders of social change. With this, we’d love to introduce you to one of the inspiring young women who attends BGCWPA’s Career Works workforce development academy, Casey. 

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania Career Works program, we know that one of the best moments in teen career development is witnessing a young adult learning what they are capable of and gaining access to something that had previously only been a dream for them. With this goal in mind, Career Development Coordinator Emily Donato organized a special weekend field trip for Career Works – Mon Valley member, Casey, to become an honorary firefighter for a day. 

Casey began dreaming of her career as a firefighter when, at the age of 12, her house caught fire and burned down. Thanks to the hard work of a local fire department, Casey and all of her siblings were safe. That day, Casey learned to look up to and aspire to be like the people who came to her rescue. 

When Casey joined Career Works in October, she was introduced to Ron Vezzani, owner of Flashover Fire Apparatus & Equipment Company. Ron’s office is next door to Career Works, giving Casey the opportunity to learn from Ron about fire safety equipment. Ron naturally became Casey’s mentor and he connected her to an opportunity to travel to the Adams Area Fire District in Mars, PA, a new facility where she was able to experience a day in the life. Below is an essay Casey wrote describing her experience. 

I want to become a firefighter because I can help people. On Saturday, I went to Adams Area Fire District. It helped me realize that I can be a firefighter if I work hard enough. I will need to prepare myself to be fit, in shape, and prepared for the long journey ahead. 

At Adams Area Fire District I learned a lot of new things and I met many kind, new people. Everyone shows respect and has fun at the same time. As soon as I walked into the station I saw the beautiful bright, shiny, red fire trucks and all of the gear. I met Bill, who retired from being Chief last year. Bill had me sworn in as an honorary firefighter for the day, and then he showed me around. 

That day, I learned that people you first meet can turn into family after an hour. I got to watch Doug, an experienced firefighter, do his favorite thing about his job, rappelling to practice for an emergency rescue situation. I also met Tyler, a young firefighter who is Captain at Adams Area Fire District and also happens to be a firefighter at McKeesport Fire Department. Everyone made me feel welcome, and at the end of the day Doug said, “This time we’re friends, next time we’re family.”

Casey’s experience exemplifies what is possible for youth who are granted a shot at chasing their dreams. Emily, who coordinates Career Works High, commented on the experience, saying “Even before graduating high school, our teens are capable of amazing things. It is our mission at BGCWPA to do whatever it takes to make sure all of our members have great futures. As we grow our Career Works program, my main motivation has been to positively influence the lives of our members, and in every way that we can show them how worthy and capable they are of succeeding at their own definition of success. As youth career development professionals, our staff strives to give students the awareness of careers available to them, assessment to know what they need to do to get there, and the access to the opportunity to prove that they are capable of amazing things when given the opportunity. Setting this field trip up for Casey was an amazing example of what happens when we dedicate our time, treasure, and talent to our youth.”

We’re so glad to have Ron, Bill, and all the members of Adams Area Fire District as a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania’s Career Works mentor network! 

Thanks to Ron fo the wonderful pictures. You can find Adams Area Fire District’s blog post about Casey’s day by clicking here.

*All photos taken prior to COVID-19