ROCKLAND, Maine — Bekah Hilt wore a neck brace as two of her friends strapped her to an orange backboard Friday the way EMTs would do if her back were injured in a car accident.
Candy Davis, a paramedic for the town of St. George, instructed two teens how to strap Hilt in tight.
“There is a right way and a wrong way to do this,” Davis said as she pulled the straps tight. “The proof will be in the pudding.”
Davis moved toward Hilt’s strapped-down head and yanked the board — and the 14-year-old girl — up to her chest, so Hilt was vertical.
“Oh my God,” Hilt screamed.
Someone grabbed the bottom of the board and lifted it so Hilt was parallel to the floor, lying on the board. With a nod, Davis and her helped flip Hilt upside down. The teen let out a loud screech, but stuck to the board.
“I’m all right,” Hilt said, looking at the ground.
Hilt was at Midcoast School of Technology to learn about becoming a paramedic. The Totally Trades Conference brought 50 girls from area high schools to the Rockland vocational school to explore male-dominated careers such as firefighting, civil engineering and carpentry.
“I want to be what she is,” Hilt said, pointing at Davis. “I’ve always liked stuff like this. I mean, I’d like to be a professional cheerleader, but that doesn’t seem realistic.”
Davis, who is the only paramedic employed by her department, told Hilt and the other teenagers that being a paramedic requires problem-solving skills and physical strength.
“It’s inspiring to see other women doing these things. They can then visualize themselves doing these things,” said Linda Buckmaster, employment and training coordinator for Women, Work and Community, the nonprofit group hosting the conference.
The conference, held every year, is for girls and showcases careers in which women make up less than 25 percent of the work force.
In a quiet room at Midcoast School of Technology, Kaelyn Williams, 17, gently set a small robot on a yellow line of tape. The robot looked a lot like a large calculator on wheels. The yellow tape went straight, then made a 90 degree turn, then another 90 degree turn. The robot rolled to the first turn, hooked left, swerved right and then stopped exactly at the end of the tape. Williams and her teammate yelled, ecstatic.
After another run, the girls brought their robot back to their computer and reprogrammed it to do the course — faster this time.
Neither Williams nor her programming partner were sure what they want to do after high school. It’s these girls Buckmaster is trying to target by having them try new things and think about careers they otherwise might not have.
“These girls need to know there are good-paying jobs that can help their communities — that’s important,” said Beth Fisher, director of Midcoast School of Technology. “I think a lot of these young women don’t have role models doing unusual things.”
The conference brought in female police officers, electricians, military personnel and carpenters to talk with the students.
“These young women have always been told to be successful you have to go to college. This gives them insight into what else they could do to be successful,” Fisher said. “We spend all this time in education, but we don’t spend much time preparing them for jobs. That’s what businesses keep saying, ‘you’re not preparing them for real-world jobs.’”