Queens— In a field full of men, Tonya Boyd is breaking barriers—and in more than one way.
“I am the highest ranking African American female in this department, period. So I’m proud, I’m really really proud," Tonya Boyd said.
This past November, she was promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief. She says she’s already felt the impact it’s made, not just in her department, but across the country.
"I’ve received letters from the Los Angeles Fire Department. I've received letters from Sacramento, California, from Charlotte, from Florida. Everybody is impacted by the opportunity that I’ve had," Boyd said.
An incredible feat, especially for Boyd, who says she started as an EMT as a way to help pay for college.
"I had a friend who was interested in the EMT course and she wanted me to tutor her at the time. So I wound up taking the course to tutor her and I really loved it," Boyd explained.
In her 21 years with the department, she’s gone from EMT to paramedic. Then moved on to supervising roles, first as a lieutenant and then captain.
During her two decades of service, she was stationed primarily in parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
"Just be in the field every day, in the street, to be a part of the city that never sleeps. There's an adrenaline that you get just responding to the call. That never ever goes away and you kind of fiend for that adrenaline after a while," Boyd reflected.
Boyd says there’s nothing in the world like the FDNY family. And in her role as deputy chief, she hopes to encourage the department to continue on this path of diversity.
"Obviously, for me, being the first African American female, sometimes I feel like this shouldn’t be a topic of conversation. This should be normal but its not," Boyd said.
And to encourage other women to rise through the ranks.
"This means to me that any EMT or paramedic that’s in this department, if you choose not to be a firefighter, there's something else that you can do. There are people that look like me that can rise through the ranks it means everything to me – it means possibility," Boyd said with hope.