From an article in the Oakland Tribune.
Not long ago, Ernesto Diaz was locked up at the Camp Sweeney juvenile detention facility on felony assault charges, deemed a “menace to society.” Carl Bolds almost joined him there on many occasions during his life as an East Oakland “street hustler.”
Now, both are employed at local ambulance companies, and on the verge of becoming certified emergency medical technicians.
Bolds, 21, of Oakland, plans to become a firefighter. Diaz, 18, of Berkeley, dreams of medical school. The only thing both men want to do now, they say, is help.
In a special ceremony earlier this month, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors honored the pair, who have made a remarkable journey in a very short time.
A staff of volunteer EMTs, life coach specialists and mental health professionals from Alameda County public health is helping them achieve their goals. Diaz and Bolds are both beneficiaries of Bay EMT, a unique program that targets at-risk men ages 18 to 24, most of whom have had run-ins with the law, and diverts them to a vocational program that channels them into the health care field. The organization hopes to increase diversity in the health care industry and in the process help young men on the brink of self-destruction. Best of all, it’s free.
Bay EMT offers two five-month courses each year, one in June and another in January. Each session is open to about 30 students. If they complete the course successfully, students then are eligible to take the National Registry Exam, which qualifies them to work as EMTs in California and several other states. Since the program began in 2002, nearly 200 students have gone on to successful medical and firefighting careers, often helping the same residents they may have terrorized, robbed or hurt previously as gang members or thugs.
Read the rest here.