St. Paul emergency responder academy celebrates latest graduates, all women of color

EMS Academy graduates receive certificates
EMS Academy graduates receive certificates during a ceremony at Conway Recreation Center Monday in St. Paul.
Aliyah Demry | MPR News

St. Paul’s Fire EMS Academy celebrated its first emergency responder graduation class that is entirely women of color. They are all mothers as well.

Darshea Weaver is a part of the 2023 class. Weaver says before joining this academy she’d never heard of a woman EMT. She said going through this process encourages her daughter to become a firefighter.

“It’s a big accomplishment for me, just to know my daughter wants to do the same thing I'm doing, and I never even saw myself doing something this crazy, so it's a lot,” Weaver said.

EMS Academy staff and graduates gather
EMS Academy graduates may use certificates to pursue emergency responder positions in St. Paul.
Aliyah Demry | MPR News

The instructor of the class Christyn Lewis says this day is important because it creates more diversity in the field. Lewis is also a St. Paul firefighter and paramedic. He says his students have changed him in ways he didn’t know they could. They’ve taught him patience. Hearing about their experiences helped him appreciate what it takes to stay in the class. He says he leans on his students as much as they do for him.

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“The students’ abilities and willingness to kind of drive through was kind of like our all-driving force as a group,” Lewis said.

A person poses for a portrait
Firefighter-paramedic lead instructor Christyn Lewis says the graduating class inspired him.
Aliyah Demry | MPR News

The program started in 2009 and has launched 317 graduates so far.

This graduating class will soon be testing for their National Registry EMT certification to apply to be a part of St. Paul Fire Department or other agencies.

“Taking a leap of faith to begin something completely different — we’re going to be saving lives — that’s tough within itself,” Weaver said.

Once certified, Weaver plans to work as an EMT this summer at the Minnesota State Fair.