Miss HER Mentorship Program visited Gainesville Fire Station #1

More than a dozen girls learned first-hand what it takes to be a firefighter through a tour of Gainesville Fire Station No. 1.

About 20 girls attended the station tour at 522 S. Main St. The girls met the station staff which was hosted by the Miss HER mentorship program.

HER Empire Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by Shawndria Dennison in 2020 to empower women and adolescent girls to know their worth, strive for excellence, and embrace their natural beauty.

HER is an acronym for “High Class Educated Role Models”. Her goal is to form lifelong bonds of brotherhood, build trust, and see “HER” succeed.

“No matter what society says, we want them to be confident and mend the breakup and pass the healing on to their daughters,” Dennison said.

Dennison said the mentorship program is the princess edition for ages 10 to 18.

“I wanted to create a safe space,” Dennison said. “I wanted to give them the opportunity to learn more about what they didn’t learn in school. This tour can give them another outlook on life. They are the ones who can change the number of women in the field. It gives them a chance to see something in their part of town.

District 1 Chief Adam Hinton, Lt. Tracey Higdon and Lt. Alexis Delisle were the speakers on the tour.

They discussed the training of firefighters, the suits they wear in the event of a fire and the remuneration.

Higdon explained that those interested in becoming a firefighter must receive a high school diploma and certificates of fire and medical training.

He said the training takes up to 12 weeks or more and the starting salary is $45,000 a year.

“We love it (the tours) because it helps people understand,” Hinton said. “There are a lot of things we do that people don’t hear about. As a kid, I visited the old Main Street Fire Station when I was a kid.

Miss HER contestant My’xenei Roundtree said she enjoyed the visit and learned more about a career as a firefighter.

“I think that was cool,” My’xenei said. “I didn’t know they lived at the fire station. I saw that the work was very physical.

Another participant, Aubrey Upshaw, recalled the alarm bells ringing and said she enjoyed the first-hand experience.

“I was scared when the bell rang,” Upshaw said. “It felt like an action movie.”

Aubrey wants to be a firefighter and felt lucky to listen to firefighters talk about their experiences.

“I’m glad I came here to learn more about this career that I didn’t know before,” Aubrey said.

Parents Tamara Mitchell and Alicia Madison attended the event with their daughters.

“It was very educational,” Mitchell said. “It opened their eyes to the career.”

Madison appreciates Dennison’s love of mentoring.

“She’s an incredible role model for young girls,” Madison said. “This event was meant to help them be more open with the community and learn how to deal with real-life situations.”

The next term of the Miss HER Mentorship Program will begin in October and registration will open in August.

Meetings are held at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters on the first Saturday of each month.

Dennison said the organization plans to have a permanent location next year.

According to the program’s website, there is an $80 fee for the first child enrolled and a $40 fee for each additional sibling.

The fee covers the cost of a Miss HER t-shirt, tiara, snacks and supplies for each session.

For more information about the organization, visit www.herempire.org.

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