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Meet Alissa Turner; The First Black American Graduate Lady From Rochester Fire Academy

A childhood dream

Alissa Turner grew up on Chili Avenue in the 19th Ward, and as a kid, she would often play pretend. In her mind, heroes battled evil; soldiers defended their country and firefighters came to the rescue. Turner will become the first African-American woman to complete her training and graduate from the Rochester Fire Academy on Friday.  A dedicated servicewoman, her road to reaching this milestone began on a somber note. Turner joined the New York Army National Guard while she was a student at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School on Genesee Street. After completing basic and advanced individual training, she was deployed to Afghanistan in September 2012.

Professional and great

Turner returned from service in August 2013, but the day Turner came home, her grandma suffered a heart attack. “Engine 5 on Lyell Avenue, they were there that day,” Turner said. “My grandma, she didn’t make it, but they were there, and it just stuck with me… They were there on probably my worst day, but they were there, and they were professional and high.” After serving her country, Turner said that’s exactly what she wanted, to help the people in her hometown on their worst days. She then attended Monroe Community College for a year while waiting for the Rochester Fire Department civil service entrance exam. Turner said she was selected as a recruit and has spent 29 weeks training.

Ladder skills and learning hose line advancement

Recruits spent their time working on ladder skills and learning hose line advancement, as well as staying in shape with high-intensity interval training, weight training and running. Turner said mornings would start bright and early for truck and gear checks, followed by the lineup and uniform inspection, then lecture or skills, and one last truck and gear check would round out the day. “This is what I want to do,” Turner said. “I want to do this, and I want to do it for real. I want to be out in the city of Rochester with real people, real firefighters, doing it.” Regarding blazing a new trail in the academy as the first female African-American graduate, Turner said she was happy what mattered most to her instructors was how hard she worked — not her gender or the color of her skin.

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