This post is also available in: French
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.
High School 9-1-1 is having its World Premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, IN (USA) on October 21, 2016. Visit HighSchool911.com 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?