Inspiring Teen Refuses To Let Her Dreams Go Up In Smoke

11 Mar
Joy Graves, in her firefighting gear.

Joy Graves, in her firefighting gear.

The girl beneath the helmet...

The girl beneath the helmet…

When you ask most young girls what they want to be when they grow up, you might expect to hear things like “An actress”, “A Veterinarian”, maybe even “The President”.  If you ask Joy Graves, a 19-year-old from a small, rural county outside Williamsburg, Virginia what she wants to be when she grows up, you just might be surprised when you hear the answer.

At 5’2″, her petite frame appears more suited to pom poms than a fire hose, but the young Ms. Graves is a testament to the old adage ‘Never judge a book by its cover’, because her dream is to become an arson investigator.  At the age of 14, she  got her CPR certification and joined her father and uncle as a member of the only fire station in her county, which consists entirely of volunteers.  Unable to actually fight fires because of her age, Joy instead spent her time at the station helping with paperwork, equipment, and making sure the ambulances were properly stocked and in order.  For two years she watched others go on calls while she did what she could at the firehouse, until she turned 16 and became eligible for a more involved role in the department.

The day she started her training to become a firefighter, she weighed 115 pounds.  The protective gear she has to wear weighs 50 pounds, but despite having to carry nearly half her own body weight, sixteen-year-old Joy persevered and obtained her firefighter certification and was finally able to fight fires, even if only on a restricted basis (external only until she turned 18).  Just after her 17th birthday, she completed the required classes and added the EMT-b (Emergency Medical Technician basic) certification to her resume; all before she graduated high school.

The county fire department is all volunteer, so there is no Fire Marshall or Arson Investigator on staff, but occasionally one will be called to a scene, and throughout her five years with the department, Joy became more familiar with the investigation side of firefighting, and found her interest being drawn in that direction.  Having found the answer to the elusive question ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’, she got down to the business of making it happen.

After she graduated from high school, Joy moved out on her own.  When she attempted to begin her college education, she was dismayed to discover that, although they no longer supported her financially, her parent’s income was required to be listed as part of her consideration for financial aide, and the addition made her ineligible.  A generous donation made by a family member allowed her to complete her first semester of college, but no more.

Currently in the process of obtaining her EMT-E certification (Emergency Medical Technician – Enhanced), which is being generously covered by the department, when Joy isn’t volunteering, in class, working at her part-time job, or sleeping, she is babysitting and doing odd jobs, but it isn’t enough.  Even keeping gas in her tank is a struggle, but she refuses to give up.  She has taken her plea for help to the public through a site called GoFundMe.com, which allows individuals to create ‘campaign pages’ through which they ask for help reaching their donation goals.  Her donation goal is set at $4,000.00.  An arson investigation degree takes 4 years to obtain, without having to sit out a semester due to lack of funds, and the expenses tally to much higher than her donation goal.  When asked about this, she replied “The $4,000.00 is just to to kick start [my education] because I plan to pay the rest by working two jobs; one at the sheriffs office and one as a receptionist. I also babysit on the side for gas money.”

Joy also had this to say about her dream, “Arson was always something that perked my interest from the firefighting classes and talking to arson investigators that came to some of the scenes.  My overall goal is to obtain a Fire Marshall position so I can promote fire safety and do arson investigations… [The county where I live] doesn’t have a paid staff so they don’t have a Fire Marshall or an arson investigator. I want to … get the requirements now, so when the opportunity does come up, I can be first in line to apply for the job.”

I happen to know this young woman personally, which is how I know for a fact that every word of this story is true.  As a person who has an audience, I feel that it is my duty to spread the word of a deserving person who needs some help, and I am more than pleased to do so.  I’m not asking you to donate money if you don’t feel moved to, but what I am asking each and every one of you who read this post to do is to share it.  Share the blog post, re-post it, share the GoFundMe page, do anything you can do to help share Joy’s story.  Even if you don’t donate a dime, by sharing her story, you are helping to spread the word, and you may be the person who shares her story with the one person that is able and willing to help her.

Joy’s GoFundMe Page

You can also make donations through Paypal, which will be manually entered into the GoFundMe donation page.  Anyone interested in this donation method should contact me for details.

My readers are some of the most wonderful people on the net, and I am asking you to help me help Joy fund her dream.  I know we can do it with your help!

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