Feb 27, 2014, 4:30 PM, Posted by Maisha Simmons
When he was 17, Dexter Harris was good at two things: football and hustling. Although he went to school, he spent most of his time trying to earn money. He wasn’t thinking about his future. He was thinking about surviving the here and now.
Instead of finishing his senior year, Dexter found himself in a California juvenile facility. There, he met a mentor named Mike who told Dexter about a new program, EMS Corps, that offered far more than emergency medical training (EMT) classes. EMS Corps also provided tutoring, mentoring and leadership classes, and was looking for people from the community who were willing and ready to serve in the emergency services field.
After hearing about EMS Corps, something changed for Dexter. He weighed his options and saw that with EMS Corps he could actually have the chance for a different life. Dexter threw himself into studying, and eventually graduated first in his EMS Corps class. As a certified EMT, Dexter now has a career with Paramedics Plus and returns to the juvenile facility to teach other young people about being a First Responder.
In every community there are young men like Dexter who have the potential to succeed. But like most young people, they need help and support to bring out their best.
Today, I was honored to be present at the White House as President Obama helped to add more momentum to a growing movement to expand opportunity for young men of color. I was joined by leaders from both the public and private sector committing their intellect, creativity, passion and resources to continue to identify solutions for men and boys of color.
I was inspired by the continuing and new energy to ensure that every young man has the opportunity make healthy choices and has the tools to live a healthy life. That includes skills to succeed in school and work. EMS Corps is just one bright light among the many innovative and inspiring approaches that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been proud to support as part of its effort to create a culture of health and opportunity for all young people. This new national initiative announced at the White House brings a new chance to build upon this exciting and important work.
It’s not just EMS Corps. Look at our Forward Promise partners to see the richness of programs already lifting up young men. It’s not just the White House and our Foundation colleagues in this movement either. There are thousands of teachers, police chiefs, state and local legislators, judges, church leaders, and community based organizations from across the country that are taking steps to ensure that all young people in America, including our young men of color, have the opportunity to succeed. If our job is to build a culture of health for all young men, then those collective efforts are its vital building blocks.
As I arrived at the White House this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of Dexter. And of all of the “Dexters” who will benefit from this unprecedented moment of commitment to hope, change, and opportunity for our sons, brothers, students and neighbors. I’m proud to be a part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and of this larger movement. Together we can bring out the best in our young men. And they—in achieving their promise—can bring out the best in all of us.
The EMS Corps program helps local health care providers expand and diversify their workforce by training young men and women from the community to be emergency medical professionals. The program also gives young people mentoring and life coaching to help them become healthy, responsible adults.
- Students receive intensive classroom training, including life mentoring.
- It's not just book study. EMS Corps training can give students a second chance at life.
- Training in an emergency care setting helps prepare students for the day when they will be working on their own during ambulance calls.
- Students receive hands-on patient care training.
- Learning to keep careful, detailed records of an ambulance call is an important part of EMT training.
- An EMT assesses a patient.
- All of the training EMS Corps students receive leads them up to this moment.
- EMS Corps members not only learn a new career path, but they can become positive role models in their own communities.