The Ridgway Ambulance hosted a First Responders program to better prepare high school students for a career in the medical field.
The program sprung from a grant written through the North Central Workforce Investment Board [NCWIB] by the Penn State Cooperative Extension 4-H program, Appalachian Arts Studio, Elk County Council on the Arts [ECCOTA] and the Ridgway Area School District.
"NCWIB offers many grants to help in career education," said Natalie Aiello, Penn State Cooperative Extension. "We decided to submit for the grant to start a program called 'Reality Check.' The program was focused around middle school and high school students in the Ridgway Area School District."
As part of the Reality Check series, Ridgway Ambulance EMT [emergency medical technician] Jeff Kuleck headed the medical series First Responders program offering an opportunity for students to receive certification from the state's Department of Health.
"I was given a list of names of students that were interested in the program," Kuleck said. "I let it be driven by the students, it was pretty loose and I wasn't sure exactly how it should go. I sat down with five of the students and they gave me the avenues that they were looking at for what they wanted to do in college, which varied from one girl who wanted to be a paramedic, up to a girl that wants to study pediatric cardiology."
Students not only took advantage of the 60-hour First Responders program but one adult and member of the armed services received their certification as well.
"We will then continue on with the series next spring by taking what they call a bridge course which is going to give them some review when they go from the first responder to the EMT level," Kuleck said. "I am also looking at bringing other classes into the area for some of the high school students."
For next spring, Kuleck plans on having a cadaver lab as part of the program.
"Between some additional certifications I am going to give and having their EMT certification, they are really at the point where they can walk into any ambulance service and be employable," Kuleck said.
"This has all really been driven by the students. The success we had is definitely due to their interest and from the people who got on board to be able to provide for the students and not just the class instructors, but even the guest speakers. A couple of points that all of the guest speakers shared with the students was to do something that sets yourself apart so you are on a different level from everyone else who is applying to medical schools and colleges."
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.