Madison Taylor has big dreams for herself when she grows up.
Counting on her fingers, the ambitious 7-year-old wants to be a baker, dancer, singer, “lifesaver,” artist — and now, a firefighter, too.
Madison was among 60 girls who visited the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy on Friday for a day of learning from female firefighters and candidates of the Chicago Fire Department.
The girls, age 6 to 14, are in the Girls Inc. Chicago Summer Camp program, which offers them a variety of activities and hands-on experiences from late June to early August. All are from public elementary schools on the South Side.
At the fire academy, the girls rotated among 10 stations, including a show-and-tell of fire gear and performing CPR on a training dummy.
They also ate lunch and chatted with five female fire chiefs.
Lunch wasn’t a sales job on being a firefighter; the goal was reminding the girls they can be who they are and overcome any adversity.
“What’s important is your self-worth and value,” First Deputy Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt told the girls after she was asked about career challenges she faces as a woman of color.
Academy instructor Sedalia Peoples, in her 27th year with the Chicago Fire Department, said when she began training, she was one of only four women in her candidate class of 50.
Current candidates Rachel Schamberger and Katie Taglar are two of the seven women in their candidate class of 114.
“With these kinds of programs, [young girls] will have more exposure,” Peoples said. “And young girls [will] know this is not just a man’s job.”
“[They] will know, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’”