Excerpts from news.wttw.com:

“The Black Fire Brigade is the first of its kind in this country,” said co-founder Quention Curtis, a 32-year veteran of the Fire Department. “It was built around getting young people off the street away from gun violence, and things of that nature, and so our motto became: ‘If you teach a kid to save a life they’ll be less likely to take a life.’”

The Chicago-based nonprofit is also working to increase the ranks of African American firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. The Chicago Fire Department has long been overwhelmingly white – and has paid out millions in racial discrimination lawsuits. Today the force is still just 17% black and 16% Hispanic.

All of the students in the program are between the ages of 18 and 30. They get their primary EMT training at area schools or ambulance companies, but the Black Fire Brigade helps them every step of the way, with tuition for those programs if needed, additional training like the gunshot scenario we described, test prep, and job placement. Most EMT students plan to become paramedics and firefighters, and the Black Fire Brigade offers similar support and training for those careers.

The Black Fire Brigade started in June 2018 and in the first 18 months put more than 250 people through the program, including 60 single moms and three homeless students. They are 100% volunteer run and supported by donations.