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Graduates highlight success of EMT program

Graduates return to Cherryville High School to highlight their success as EMTs

Students at Cherryville High School got to hear firsthand how taking courses in the school’s Public Service Academy can lead them down a promising career path.  

Recently, teacher Ray McMillan invited three Class of 2021 graduates to speak to the emergency medical technology class about their time in the program and how it helped them prepare for a job right out of high school with Gaston Emergency Medical Services (GEMS).

Ashlyn Beattie, Trae Costner, and Jessica Johansen agree that McMillan’s experience as a former paramedic inspired them to seek their emergency medical technician (EMT) credentials.  Now, through the Apprenticeship 321 program, they are enrolled at Gaston College, working on an associate degree and receiving on-the-job training through GEMS.

“Not all high schools offer classes where they teach you to become an EMT,” said Costner.  “I was unsure about what I wanted to do after high school, but the emergency medical technology program sparked an interest that I would have never imagined.”

Like Costner, Johansen plans to become a certified paramedic.  She said the program made it possible for her to get a job after graduation and provide a wonderful service to the community. 

“The support I have received while working on my certification has been amazing,” said Johansen.  “Through my job with GEMS, I have been able to understand more about the job responsibilities of an EMT.”

For Ashlyn Beattie, working with GEMS is the beginning of her future aspirations.  “I want to be a flight paramedic,” said Beattie.  “Working as an EMT gives me hands-on experience that will help me achieve my career goal.” 

Now in its fourth year, McMillan is working to recruit more students for the EMT program, which is part of the Public Service Academy.  The Academy introduces students to career options in public service sectors such as police, fire, public safety, emergency medical care, government, criminal justice, and education/teaching.

McMillan says Beattie, Costner, and Johansen, the EMT program’s first graduates, are perfect examples of how it benefits students.  Getting students like them interested is first and foremost.  To foster the interest, McMillian knows the curriculum must capture students’ attention and appeal to them.

“I start by establishing a connection with the students.  I speak about my personal experiences and use real-life scenarios and visual aids to engage them in the discussion,” said McMillan.  “For example, I have my students perform skills in the hallway so other students will see the exciting things we do.”

McMillan added, “I am extremely proud of the program we have at Cherryville High School.  I like to think that what I have taught the students helps them realize they are capable of having a professional career in the healthcare field.”

Once students complete the EMT classes in high school, the next step is hands-on learning.  That is where the partnership with GEMS and Gaston College comes into play.  Students can enroll at Gaston College and take classes toward a degree while working for GEMS.  It’s a win-win situation for students who want to further their studies, land a job, and gain real-world experience in a specific field.    

“It is a good opportunity for them to determine if this is the right career for them,” said GEMS deputy chief Jamie McConnell.  “It also gives us a chance, as a potential employer, to evaluate the students’ work ethic.”

Jill Hendrix of Gaston College said the Apprenticeship 321 program is designed to provide opportunities for students to begin working in high-demand careers right after high school and earn money while completing a college degree.  “You are hired for a job in your field of choice, and the great thing is you get a paycheck while you learn a trade and earn a degree,” she said.

Click here to learn more about the Public Service Academy at Cherryville High School.

Click here to learn more about the 21 school choice programs offered in Gaston County Schools.

Click here to learn more about the Apprenticeship 321 program at Gaston College.

VIDEO: Apprenticeship 321 at Gaston College