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Iowa Hero Academy creating space for women in first responder careers

Four women were pinned to join the Des Moines Fire Department after participating in the program. They say the academy is a great way to recruit more women.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines' first responders are working to get more women into the field. That includes Des Moines Police and Fire Departments as well as the Iowa National Guard. 

The Iowa Hero Academy is a summer camp aiming to give women ages 15 to 18 a preview of what they can expect in those fields.

With only a few months away from the Iowa Hero Academy, Senior Fire Medic Laura Lyon is excited for this year's events

"It's a lot of hands-on activities they get to be able to do what we get to do every day and learn about it but most importantly be in a supportive environment," Laura Lyon, said.

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Laura hopes through programs like the Hero Academy more women can become first responders. Today's graduation gives Laura hope they're closer to that goal

"It's very exciting we have one of our largest classes of females graduating, there are four in this current class," Lyon said. 

Ashely Zerwas is now one of Des Moines' newest firefighters, pinned at Friday's graduation. She's also a member of the National Guard. She shared that without mentors she would have never walked down this path

"I was working full time for the guard and a mentor of mine, told me to look into the Des Moines Fire Department as the application process," Zerwas said.

Zerwas believes women belong in first responder careers and play a significant role in helping the community

"I think we bring an important role to the crews, and to the public in general,"  Zerwas said. 

Katie Hoffman was also pinned. She believes women belong in all spaces in addition to these career fields. She shared how these careers aren't always presented to women at a young age as a possibility 

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"I think a lot of females don't really, aren't really introduced to it from a younger age, the way a lot of males are. So [I] think it's a great way to show people that it's something they can do," Hoffman said.

Lyon shared the main objective of the Hero Academy is to let young girls know that the possibilities are endless

"We can do this job as equally as the men can we are strong we are fierce," Lyon said. 

The registration deadline for the Iowa Hero Academy is April 29, this event is open for girls aged 13-18 years old. 

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