In the male-dominated world of first responders’ work, women are often underrepresented in roles such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics. However, one camp is changing the way women see themselves in such career paths.

Established in 2006, Camp Courage is an eight-day-long camp which introduces young women ages 15-19 to careers as first responders. With camp wrapping up over the weekend, founder and Halifax Fire Capt. Andrea Speranza said this year’s 24 participants are excited to pursue careers they might have never considered. 

“They came in quiet,” said Speranza. “And now they’re rip roaring to become police officers firefighters and paramedics.”

The camp, which is free, aims to create more diversity in lines of work dominated by men by informing young women of their options and opportunities, as well as showing them examples of women succeeding in their respective fields. Many former graduates of the program were present at this year’s camp and acted as mentors—giving back to the next generation.

“I want to give other women the exact same experience that I had,” said Taigan Ross, who now works as a paramedic. “It was such a jump start to my career and my life and I think it instilled a lot of characteristics that I have to this day.”

In addition to education and information, the First Responders Society also offers bursaries to support camp alumni who continue their education as first responders. Ultimately, Speranza hopes this year’s campers leave Camp Courage with the confidence to succeed in whatever path they choose.

“I hope they learn that there are unlimited options available to them,” she said. “As well as that they have this outstanding support network of over 100 role models that will help them pursue their dreams.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.