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The Teenage Girl – Let’s Break Some Stereotypes

A documentary that breaks gender stereotypes

Today’s guest post is from Kelli Joan Bennett, an amazing writer, actor, and producer of films who I met through Twitter. Her newest project is the documentary film High School 9-1-1. Both producer Kelli and the females in the movie are worthy of being called “inspiring,” in my opinion. Decide for yourself. Take it away, Kelli.

What do you think teenage girls are capable of? Spending exorbitant amounts of time on their hair?  Living for social media?  Texting nonstop?  Being boy crazy?  Do stereotypical teen descriptors such as immature, rebellious, shallow, or gossipy rush into your mind accompanied by images of spoiled brats from MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 or emotional basket cases from Glee?  Thanks to the media’s portrayal of young women, words like responsible, dependable, professional, confident, skilled, and respectful do NOT immediately pop up.  Neither does saving lives.

I am never more inspired by someone than when they are doing something completely unexpected.  That was certainly the case when I began producing the documentary High School 9-1-1 about Darien EMS–Post 53 the only teen-run ambulance service in the United States.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Teenagers run an ambulance service.  Literally.  They drive the ambulances.  They are the EMTs.  They run the government of the organization.  And yes, it’s legal.  What inspires me even more than teenagers running an emergency medical service is that Darien EMS–Post 53 is made up of 50% girls!

According to the study Gender Bias Without Borders—an investigation of female characters in popular films across the country*—36% of teenage female characters are sexualized and that same age group is five times more likely to receive appearance-based comments than boys or men, and, men outpace women in on-screen STEM career roles 7 to 1.  As a female filmmaker, my goal is to help change those statistics.

In High School 9-1-1, of the six elected officers of Post 53, three of them are girls.  Including, 16-year-old Sarah Streeter, the President of Post 53, responsible for leading the organization’s government, overseeing daily operations, and guiding the membership of over 80 other teenagers.

Then there’s 17-year-old Meredith Koch, the Vice President of Training responsible for overseeing peer-to-peer first aid and emergency medical testing and training, and 17-year-old Kate Kevorkian, the Treasurer who happens to be a cheerleader in her spare time.  High School 9-1-1 shows real teenage girls using their minds and their skills just like the boys—100% gender equality.

Unlike so many industries, arenas, professions, and countries where men and women are simply not on equal ground in myriad ways—from media portrayal to pay to respect to opportunity—Darien EMS–Post 53 is gender blind and has been since its inception in 1970.  In fact, Post 53 was the first Boy Scout Explorer Post in the United States to accept female members!

Breaking barriers and stereotypes back in an era not so friendly to women, the organization’s founder’s two daughters, Jennifer and Lisa Doble, were members of the organization in their teens, went onto medical school and are both doctors today.

Of the 600 teenagers to complete four years of membership in Post 53 over the last 46 years, approximately half have gone on to medical school or related medical fields while the rest have become successful in business and other fields.

When you see what the teenage girls in High School 9-1-1 are capable of, I hope you will no longer be able to hold onto the media’s (or your own) stereotypical concepts of teens.  After a year of filming these amazing girls, I know I couldn’t!

By the end of production, I was inspired and my mind was open.  Open to what teens are actually capable of…in a good way for once.  If I ever get hurt in Darien, CT, I’d be lucky to have the kick-ass teenage girls of Post 53 come to my rescue.

*Reference Study:

High School 9-1-1 is having its World Premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, IN (USA) on October 21, 2016.  Visit for more information. Also, check out the project on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Bios of the girls in the film…

SARAH STREETER (16)Senior, EMT, President

Stoic Sarah is the calm, fearless leader of the organization.  At 16 she was elected president of the organization by the membership. With that position comes huge responsibility as well as missing many family dinners.

MEREDITH KOCH (17)Senior, EMT, Vice-President of Training

The daughter of an adult advisor at Post 53 who has been there for the past 27 years, Meredith grew up around the organization.  She eats, breathes and lives for it and serving her community.

KATE KEVORKIAN (17)Senior, EMT, Treasurer

Perky, hyper and a cheerleader, Kate is not a book you should judge by its cover!  She shatters the stereotype of a ditzy teenager and wins hearts with her smarts, skills and compassion.

INES CASTRO (15)Sophomore, EMT in training

Incredibly close with her Spanish/Mexican family, a sophomore in Post, Ines can’t wait to become an Emergency Medical Technician. But the training is intense and rigorous.  She works harder than she imagined preparing for the state of Connecticut’s Emergency Medical Technician certification to earn the coveted role of EMT on the ambulance.  But will she pass the test?

CECILLIA LEE (13)Freshman Candidate (to become a member of Post 53)

For Cecillia and her Korean emigrant parents becoming a member of Post 53 would be a dream come true. Ever since she saw the Post 53 sticker on a car, she has wanted to become a member of the organization.  She wants to become a doctor when she grows up and Post is the perfect starting point.  But will she be voted in?

55 thoughts on “The Teenage Girl – Let’s Break Some Stereotypes”

  1. Absolutely awe-inspiring. I’m an RN, and working in an ER is challenging; being out there on the front lines is commendable. We sometimes forget that teenagers are people and thus capable of outstanding work. Thank you, Christy and Kelli, for this excellent post. Have shared across my pages ❤

    1. Wow! What a lovely comment to read, Tina! Thank you for your service as an ER RN. That is amazing. And thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing and helping us spread the word and inspiring message! Deeply appreciate the support. :)

  2. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Christy Birmingham is hosting Kelli Joan Bennett who has produced a documentary that will blow you away.. I too am guilty of tut tutting when I see the images of teenagers of both sexes in the media and in dramas on television or the movies… stroppy, uncaring and self-centred.. Read this post and you it will reinforce the need to stop stereotyping.. It is brilliant and thanks to Michelle Clements James and D.G.Kaye for sharing.. I follow Christy but missed this one.

    1. How wonderful! Thank you so much for reading, for this awesome comment and for sharing!!! It really is a daily effort we must all put in to stop stereotyping. Thanks again! I so deeply appreciate the kind words and support. :)

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment! It is sad but I believe there is a huge shift happening and we are all a part of it and can help break stereotypes and make equality a reality.

    1. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment! Four teenage daughters…how fabulous!!! Such a blessing. I hope they can see the film some day soon. Until then, here’s to girl power! :)

  3. What an incredible opportunity and story – as a former lifeguard I would have loved an opportunity like this. I will certainly look for the film – thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh my gosh, Louise, thank you so much for reading, for your kind words and for sharing your perspective as a former lifeguard! I’ve had so many people say something similar…that they would have loved an opportunity like this. As adults, we have to constantly look for ways to create expansive opportunities for young people to learn by doing and be empowered. Thanks again!

  4. Fascinating and inspiring post Christy and Kelli. No doubt teenagers have great capabilities. It’s how they choose to use them. What a terrific group of girls! <3

  5. Last year, we profiled a very talented local 16 year-old girl who was making very impressive films but this just blows me away. “An ambulance service operated by teen girls” sounds like a great idea for a movie but this isn’t at all the movie I would have pictured. Great work.

  6. Thanks Kelli for the guest post and film. It is inspiring to see in the documentary teen girls run an ambulance service. It’s usually unheard of, but no reason why it can’t be done. It can. Trying and simply going for it, girls can do anything and be anything even in male dominated industries. Sure we might be laughed at but it is time we stood up for ourselves and let what we can do do the talking.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful and insightful comment, Mabel! I’m thrilled it inspired you! I loved your comment. YES! Girls can DO anything and BE anything they set their minds to! And love your last line: “let what we can do do the talking.” Right on! :) Thanks again!

    1. Oh my gosh I love that: “when we change the conversation, we enter a new world of possibilities and creative endeavour.” Thank you so much for reading and for your comment!

  7. Wow, what an impressive group of teenagers. This is what we should be hearing about on our new’s programs instead of the charades of some so-called “adults”; but let’s not go there… :) Hooray for hope.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

  8. I have seen this film and it’s remarkable!! Seriously, the way they save lives is beyond impressive. Bravo Kelli for highlighting the incredible teenage girls in this piece. They’re so inspiring as is this wonderful documentary!

    1. Yes! And how mature humans can be at such a young age too. Thanks again, Sheldon, for supporting the documentary and the site here too

  9. This is awesome! I firmly believe that empowered teens can do great things. Teenagers of all genders already have the will, heart, and energy to do the job, as well as great ideas. When caring, knowledgeable adults team up with young people, so much good can happen! Thank you for sharing this information with us … very inspiring!

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and kind words! We always say, empowered teens are happy teens and happy teens are productive teens who can go on to do great things. And yes, I agree, adult mentorship is truly the key! Thanks again and I’m so glad you you found the post inspiring. :)

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