Students can turn their skills into income – and save lives – sooner rather than later with Grover Cleveland High School’s EMT program which can prepare them for certification by age 17.
But the program, which has already put students directly onto the job market, struggles financially since the program is costly to run and requires funding from outside sources, namely Councilman Robert Holden.
Kamila Grala, a senior, remembers reviving an elderly victim of cardiac arrest during a shift on an ambulance crew and how it felt to be part of a busy effort to save a life.
“When we got there, paramedics were already doing CPR … But we had to rotate, it gets tiring, so I was able to go in and do CPR and I got his pulse back,” Grala said. “After that I rode in the ambulance with paramedics making sure he was stable enough to transport. Once we got to the hospital, nurses took over because he did flatline again and I’m not sure if they brought him back. I got another call.”
Students attending the program do two 16-hour tours on ambulances and a 12-hour tour in the emergency room of North Central Bronx Hospital.
Some students spoke of treating stab wounds, gunshot wounds and delivering babies during their tours.
One student, Laura Pachard, remembered helping to treat a man in the Bronx had a gunshot wound in the head and the abdomen.
Having started in 2014, about four of students have gone into the FDNY, local ambulance providers one has event served as an EMT in the military and completed for years with tours in war zones, the instructors said.
The age requirement to take the state certification exam is 176, meaning the 20 students in the program have job training straight out of high school.
“We’re working with City Council to try to get more money for EMT workers, because right now they’re not paid nearly enough,” Holden said. “In fact, I think they should double it.”
Average salaries for EMTs in the city fall around $31,000, according to Glassdoor. But many of the students express the desire to use their EMT work as a springboard to better positions in the medical field.
“I thought I was going to be a pediatric nurse, but I decided to actually go for full doctor,” Grala said. “I thought EMT would get me that extra step forward in this kind of field.”
Karen Moreno, who leads the program at the school, said her effort to get funding from politicians was fruitless and the funds provided by Holden’s office were critical to keeping the costly program active.