LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — For the first time in the academy’s history, a female recruit has graduated at the top of her LAFD class.

Caroline Carpenter says she first fell in love with public safety working summers as a lifeguard in Seal Beach while also studying at UC Santa Cruz.

Although Carpenter got a degree in classical studies, lifeguarded and taught, the single mom wanted to find a career that would not only help provide for her son, Dewey, but would also allow her to pursue her passion for public safety.

“People were like there’s no way she’s going to be able to do it,” Carpenter said when thinking back on people’s reaction to her decision to become a firefighter. But for the 5-foot-5-inch, 130 pound 26-year-old, those comments went in one ear and out the other.

Since May, Caroline has trained every day, often carrying equipment that weighs just about the same as her, to get to this moment.

At her graduation ceremony on Thursday, Carpenter’s son pinned her badge on her uniform as the new recruit fulfilled a goal and made history becoming the first woman to graduate at the head of the class.

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