St. Lucie’s first black female firefighter builds on success
by Larry Bailey, Treasure Coast Palm
Eight months ago, Fort Pierce resident La Toya Young became the first black female firefighter in St. Lucie County.
“To actually be a part of history, to be the first at something, it’s an unbelievable feeling that no words can express,” Young said.
Young works out of Station 3 in Port St. Lucie.
Before becoming a firefighter, Young spent seven years driving a school bus. Her dream since she was a little girl has been to join the fire department, but she never got serious about it until the day she actually saw a female firefighter.
“Seeing a woman doing what I wanted to do, made the difference,” Young said.
Becoming the first in a field not traditionally open to minorities involved a transition that Young says went surprisingly smooth. She first applied for and received a scholarship at Indian River State College and then followed through with four months of classroom training and six months at the fire academy.
“The hard part was finding the time to be a good single mother to my 2-year-old daughter and still have time to train,” Young said.
Young enlisted her mother, Sharon Boatwright of Fort Pierce, to help her at home while she trained. “La Toya was a go-getter even as a baby. Now she is putting out brush fires that save homes and handling other emergency situations with relative ease,” Boatwright said.
“Everything starts with desire, once you have it, take the daily steps to meet the goal and eventually you will get there,” Boatwright added.
Boatwright described her daughter as a person who likes to help people and engage in the adventure of spinning lights, sirens, high speed, and putting out fires. Boatwright also told of how firefighting runs in their family. Young’s uncle has clocked a decade with the firefighters in Clearwater.
When asked about the importance of her new historic status, Young exhibited astonishment. “In 2009, I must say that I’m surprised it has taken this long for an African American female to step into a career of this nature.”
In the future, the new history making firefighter plans to become a paramedic and pursue degrees in emergency medical services and public safety administration.