SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Overlooking the Connecticut River lies the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. The population of nearly 155,000 people is home to many firsts.
Where basketball came to life in 1891, even more recently where the first resort casino in the state was built. When it comes to Black history, Springfield is rich with it, adding to even more firsts for the city.
Camryn Kynard, a senior at Springfield Central High School, at 18-years-old the recently promoted Lt. Col. of the JROTC holds the title as the first black female commander.
She told 22News, “My major, Major Kida, he pulled me into his office and said ‘Camryn I think you’ve made history here.’ He was like ‘no, I think you really are the first African American Wing Commander at the school’s history,’ and at first, I was like oh that’s nice. After that, he was like ‘no, this is a big deal this is a major high school.'”
The JROTC unit at Central is the number one unit out of 20 other units in the country. When the unit was first founded in 1966, they began with 40 cadets, now there are some 400 cadets making them one of the largest units in the U.S. as well.
Lt. Col Kynard is the highest-ranking cadet in the pack and responsible for nearly 399 other members.
“It’s amazing, I love the idea of making history at my high school and in Springfield and having my name etched in history,” Kynard expressed. “I get so humbled because it was never calculated it just came into fruition. It’s a constant reminder that great things are still happening, great things will be continuing to happen.”
And it’s also happening just a few miles away.
At the Springfield Police Department, Deputy Chief Rupert Daniel has worked at the department for more than three decades. Most recently, making history there in the fall of 2019, after being promoted to his current title, the first black officer to do so.
“I think back to all the talented minorities that have worked for this department and I just still find it amazing that it’s taken this long for someone to rise up to this level,” Chief Daniel told 22News.
But it’s drive and tenacity that got him where he is today. Two qualities, he says that have been with him from a young age.
A native of the west indies, migrating to the U.S. and becoming a foster child in Boston, Chief Daniel says that he’s a product of pursuing your dreams, regardless of circumstances.
“If there’s something you want, don’t let someone tell you you can’t get it,” said Chief Daniel. “Just put the time in, look into the requirements. What do I need to do, get to where I want to go.”
“I feel like I’m just an example of a pathway created for others to follow, ” Springfield Fire Chief Tyrone Denson noted.
That pathway going down in Springfield history as the first black district fire chief. Tyrone Denson climbed the ladder for 23 years to get here but it wasn’t without challenges. Something he said he was ready to face head-on while pursuing his dream of moving up the ranks.
“I always wanted to make this rank, yes I did, I always wanted to make this rank,” Chief Denson assured. “I knew it was a challenging position but I was up for the challenge. I just wanted to continue getting greater responsibility. Made my way up the rank to lieutenant, from there I just kept climbing, I went to captain, then currently made district chief.”
And when asked what they want their legacy to be years down the line.
The answer was simple and the same: making their peers and community proud and to keep this kind of history repeating itself.