Record number of minorities took FDNY entrance exam

May 8, 2012 3:20:13 PM PDT
A number of new records have been set with the latest FDNY test. This is due in large measure to stepped up recruitment of women and people of color.

"I think they should stick with it and don't give up," said firefighter Tenisha Forbes.

Words of encouragement from female firefighters, only 28 in the FDNY, are now at the forefront of recruiting other women and people of color. They are already showing surprising results.

"More than 42-thousand people took the exam, a record turnout, and the diversity of the test takers who sat for the computer-based exam during the six week test period was unprecedented," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

While non-minorities made up 54 percent of test takers, people of color who were taking the exam made up nearly 46 percent of the total. That's more than 19,200 - a record far surpassing previous years. Additionally, nearly two thousand women took the tests, also a record over previous years.

Following a federal lawsuit challenging the test, department officials say they believe that the changes they made brought about the significant improvements.

"We have even improved on attracting candidates who are traditionally under-represented in the firefighter ranks," added Cassano.

These firefighters are also part of stepped up recruitment efforts, and they draw from their own experience.

"Seeing other female firefighters really inspired me because I never knew I had the ability to do it before. So we're just giving back," said firefighter Sarinya Srisakul.

Regina Wilson heads United Women Firefighters.

"We're here to give them support, and we're going to mentor them through the whole process," she said.

A process from recruit to firefighter can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years.

"The ones who stay strong are the ones who will become firefighters in all aspects," said firefighter Khalid Baylor.

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