POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 35 PANS in the community Since 2006, Camp Courage has been empowering and inspiring girls to take on non-traditional roles in their careers. But it’s not just about the job. It’s about confidence and helping others. Andréa Speranza, operations captain with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services and founder/executive director of Camp Courage, says the idea behind the camp is to empower young women and ignite a different mindset. The camp introduces girls ages 15 to 19 to firefighting, policing and paramedicine. "It’s empowering for them if they can climb a 100foot ladder, if they can put out a fire, if they can shoot a gun, if they can deliver a mechanical baby,” says Speranza. “They aren’t going to have a problem doing an interview or doing a presentation at school. The idea is to challenge them. Everyone has points where they are going to fail in life. This is where it’s going to show them how to cope." The week-long camp accepts 24 young women to test their skills each summer. The camp is free, but to become a participant the applicants must write an essay on how they can help someone else who is less fortunate, or how they can help their community. "I believe it should be free for everyone to attend, but I don’t think it should be a free ride. They have to earn their spot — and that is another life skill," says Speranza. The camp always starts with Speranza making a speech, motivating the girls for the upcoming week and banning the word "can’t." "Nobody knows everything and nobody can do everything on their own, so they need to understand if they want something, maybe they have to work a little harder. Maybe they need to enlist other people’s help. Maybe they need to try it a different way. That is an essential life skill that will help them many years in the future." Christie Webb graduated from Camp Courage in 2013 and made the valedictorian speech for the group that summer. She says it was an amazing experience that put being a firefighter at the top of her goal list. "I can honestly say I would relive that week for the rest of my life because it was completely amazing," says Webb. "It made me so confident and helped me see the dreams that I want to pursue in life, and that is being a career firefighter." Webb was 17 when she went to Camp Courage and has already graduated with a certificate in firefighting from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She’s presently enrolled at Holland College for paramedicine to increase her chances for getting placed in a fire hall. She says she was always interested in firefighting, having been a volunteer firefighter in her hometown in Hantsport, but she was on the fence between firefighting, nursing or paramedicine. The camp experience solidified her passion for the first. "I would strongly suggest any girl in this age group to apply. It’s a week of a lifetime, that’s for sure. Any girl would be so lucky to be selected for the camp. Andréa is amazing; she opened my eyes to so many things," says Webb. The camp has a team of more than 100 volunteers from Halifax Regional Police, the RCMP, Emergency Health Services and the fire department. Different days have different themes, and the girls get hands on experience putting out fires, learning crime scene investigation and even cutting the roof from a car. "The police dogs and horses come, the girls learn self-defense and crimescene investigation. They learn some tactical things, like handcuffing. The bomb squad comes in. The emergency response team comes in. They get to see all the best things there," says Speranza. Through the process of learning new skills and trying new things, the girls also make connections with women who are in these positions, building a network of mentors. The camp has a large success rate of As originally published on March 12, 2017 – Dartmouth Tribune, Denise Surette Program gives teenage girls the chance to explore non-traditional career choices Camp Courage is a week-long camp that accepts 24 young women, ages 15-19, to test their skills each summer in various fields, including firefighting, policing and paramedicine. continued on page 37 Speranza says the difference in the girls between the first day and the last day is incredible. She even has parents asking what happened to their child and how so much confidence was instilled