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Boston paramedic scholarships aim to build diversity in ranks

Boston EMS officials hope reducing financial barriers to education will increase inclusivity among all ranks at the department

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A new Boston EMS paramedic scholarship program seeks to increase diversity among all ranks at the department.

Photo/Boston EMS

By Laura French

BOSTON — A new scholarship program for Boston EMS members aims to increase diversity and inclusion among promotional ranks.

The program provides financial assistance to Boston EMTs pursuing paramedic certification and was launched in coordination with the United Coalition of EMS Providers (UCEP), a Boston EMS-affiliated group that is dedicated to advancing equity, inclusion and diversity at the department, according to a city press release. The scholarship is also supported by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the city’s Office of Workforce Development and Bunker Hill Community College, where 16 scholarship recipients are currently enrolled in paramedic courses.

“Boston is a diverse city, and it’s crucial that our public safety services in Boston, including our paramedics, reflect our neighborhoods, and our values,” Walsh said in a statement. “I’m proud that with the scholarship, we will continue to support diversity at Boston EMS, and care for all those who call Boston home.”

The goal of the scholarship is to increase inclusion in all promotional ranks of the department by reducing financial barriers to education, officials said. While 40% of Boston EMS personnel hired in the last three years are women and 36% are people of color, only 19% of the city’s paramedics are women and only 6% are people of color, according to the agency.

Of the first class of scholarship recipients, 75% are women, 37% are bilingual and 94% are people of color, according to Deputy Lee Alexander, a UCEP board member and head of diversity, recruitment and engagement at Boston EMS.

“Eligibility for selection included UCEP membership, open to all members of Boston EMS, and a commitment to promoting equity and inclusion,” Alexander said in a statement.

The program received funding from the Neighborhoods Jobs Trust and SkillWorks, a collaborative co-led by the Boston Foundation and the Office of Workforce Development. UCEP and the scholarship program were established following listening sessions in spring 2020 where personnel talked about their own experiences with racial discrimination after the killing of George Floyd, according to UCEP President and Founder Roger Hamlet, a Boston EMT.

“I am very proud of what UCEP was able to accomplish in just five short months, securing Mayoral support and funding, as well as coordinating directly with Bunker Hill Community College; increasing the diversity of our paramedics will result in a direct benefit in patient care,” said Boston EMS Chief of Department Jim Hooley, in a statement.