Jennifer Guggemos is a junior at Freedom High working toward the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive, known as the Gold Award. To earn this prestigious award, the young member of the Sunset Scouts Troop 795 (which has been meeting at the McDonald’s in Tampa Palms for eight years) must dedicate at least 80 hours to a project that provides a “lasting, sustainable benefit” to her community.
So, Guggemos is teaming up with Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR) District Chief Susan Tamme to create a museum exhibit called “Women of TFR,” to show girls the career paths available to them in the fire department, and to honor the women who serve Tampa in this capacity.
Tamme oversees five fire stations, including New Tampa’s three stations (TFR Station Nos. 20, 21, and 22). She has worked for TFR for more than 20 years. Nearly two years ago, she became the first and remains the only female fire chief in the history of the department.
“It’s a fantastic career,” says Tamme, who cites the schedule (one day working, then two days off), the “stable, consistent” pay, the camaraderie of the firefighting “family” and the rewards of helping people as reasons why she would encourage her own daughter — and other girls like her — to consider a career with the fire department.
“It’s not just running into burning buildings,” Tamme explains.
The museum display will highlight 10 different career opportunities available, including fire prevention (inspectors), emergency medical services, and even tactical medical response teams to support police operations.
“If someone is interested in business or management, they can work toward a career as an officer, like my job,” says Tamme. “I now manage 50 people.”
Guggemos teamed up with Tamme after working with the fire department on an earlier service project. To earn her Silver Award, Guggemos collected more than 1,200 stuffed animals for the fire department to provide to children during emergency situations.
Tamme says she’s excited to partner with the Girl Scouts for this project, hoping that the partnership will allow many girls to come through the museum, see the display, and learn about the career opportunities available to them.
Tamme has already reached one young woman with her message — Guggemos herself, who says she had no idea so many different career paths were available at the fire department.
“I’ve learned a lot,” says Guggemos. “I’ve really enjoyed being around firefighters and it’s so cool to see what they do.”
She says the female firefighters she’s spoken with often tell her their stories, and there’s one she’s heard that is particularly inspiring.
“People told me I couldn’t do it,” Guggemos says one female firefighter told her. “But, here I am.”
Guggemos says she is learning leadership skills as she works with three different committees to put this exhibit together.
The museum display is expected to open in March, which is widely recognized as Women’s History Month. It will be part of the Tampa Firefighters Museum, located at 720 E. Zack St. in downtown Tampa.
Guggemos and Tamme are currently raising funds to make their plans a reality. The Tampa Firefighters Museum has agreed to match whatever funding is raised for the project, which Tamme estimates could cost $15,000.
It will include an artistic display with photographs and videos about each of the 10 different careers available within the Tampa Fire Department. It also will include brochures to be available to museum visitors.
For information about the Tampa Firefighters Museum, visit TampaFireMuseum.com. To learn more about supporting the fund-raising efforts for the “Women in Tampa Fire Rescue” museum display, contact Guggemos at TampaFireExhibit.GoldAward@yahoo.com.