St. Paul Public Schools graduates first EMT trainees  

People stand with certificates
Twelve graduates of St. Paul Public School's districtwide EMT training program pose with certificates on Friday.
Anika Best | MPR News.

Twelve seniors graduated from St. Paul Public School’s EMT training program on Friday. It’s the first-ever class for the district and a possible way forward in a crisis for emergency medicine.

Dr. Kari Haley, the assistant medical director of Regions EMS, says certifying high school seniors makes sense.

“At a time when EMS is truly facing a national shortage, a critical shortage of EMTs and paramedics, it’s so inspiring to see such an enthusiastic and ready to learn and a very professional group of kids coming out of high school who are really excited about medicine,” Haley said.

Susan Laskowski, the school counselor who supports the districtwide program said these students represent six different high schools and speak six different languages.

“I’ve been working with these students, you know, supporting them every day when they come in. They have worked so hard,” Laskowski said.

“This is a nine-credit course, it is five days a week, afternoons. They have work, they have family, they have their high school schedule. So it’s really amazing to see them succeed and graduate.”

People raise their hands to take an oath
St. Paul seniors take the EMT oath at the districtwide training program's graduation on Friday.
Anika Besst | MPR News

The program started less than a year ago when St. Paul Fire Department met with St. Paul Public Schools. The program came together quickly.

Laskowski said the district hopes to graduate another student cohort next spring.

Isaac Yang graduated Friday and plans to continue emergency medicine studies at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s been wonderful. It was tough, but we managed to complete it together,” Yang said. “I’m using this as a great steppingstone for me to decide what I want to do.”

High school students must be 18 to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians examination, which certifies them to work in Minnesota.

Some students unable to complete the program during this semester will finish it over the summer.

“It’s really a team effort. The students did feel supported, and it is a family," Laskowski said. “We’ve had students struggle, and instead of saying, ‘We don’t think you’re right for this course,’ they just worked with them, and met with them and put in extra hours and gave them support. They just didn’t give up on any student.”

One instructor, Kayla Sanchez, a St. Paul firefighter/paramedic said even though some students may not finish the course, they can take away valuable skills.

“If they made it through CPR, they learned something, and something that they can bring back to their families and to their communities,” Sanchez said a fire department mentor told them.

The EMS Academy is designed for low-income, underrepresented communities, and women who are residents in St. Paul.

People pose for a photo on a stage
Capt. Brittney Baker, second from left, oversaw the EMT training program for St. Paul Public School students.
Anika Besst | MPR News

“I really loved my instructors. I really loved that they also represented me. It was nice seeing African Americans who were also part of the program. There are not a lot of us, especially in medicine,” said student Toniyah McCaster.

Some instructors were also young when they started their careers at the St. Paul Fire Department, said the assistant fire chief Steve Sampson.

“All of the instructors were students at one point, and for them to come full circle now and be the teachers themselves ... it’s just a testament to what this is, and the significance and the impact that it's having on our community.”  

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