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Mass. School Hosts EMT Cadet Program

FITCHBURG, Mass. -- Anna DeLuca is one of a handful of Nashoba Regional High School students that's encouraged to run through the school's hallways.

DeLuca, a senior, is part of the Bolton, Mass., school's EMT Cadet program an after-school course that allows students under 18 to become certified as emergency medical technicians.

Students who join the program are trained by professional EMTs at the school to respond to medical emergencies, then put to work as day-time EMTs for Bolton, said DeLuca, 18, of Stow.

"We have the opportunity to learn how to save lives, and then we go out there and put what we learn to use," DeLuca said.

Every day, four of the school's approximately 50 cadets arrive at school by 7:40 a.m. and don't leave until 5 p.m., according to Sue Farrell, the program's advisor and Assistant Director of Northeastern University's Health Institute.

The students are on call until they go out and respond to an emergency, which could take a few days, Farrell said.

"It allows all the students the chance to respond," Farrell said.

Each student receives a pager at the start of their shift so the town's emergency dispatcher can reach them whenever there is a medical need, Farrell said.

The pagers go off whether the cadets are in class, the library or just walking through the hallways. When the cadets hear the familiar beep, they move quickly to get to the school's EMT cruiser in the parking lot, Farrell said.

"They drop everything they're doing and go," Farrell said.

DeLuca calls it "the Cadet run" when the cadets hand their books off to a friend, leave them at their desk or even drop them on the floor so they can get to the school's parking lot.

Custodians who also have EMT backgrounds drive the students to the scene, Farrell said.

"One of the stipulations (for the program) is that the students are not allowed to drive themselves," Farrell said.

Nashoba's EMT course is one of only two such programs in the state, Farrell said.

"It's a college-level course," Farrell said about the program. "It's a huge commitment for these kids."

Massachusett EMTs are required to be 18 or older, but town and school officials received a special waiver 20 years ago to train and certify students to help Bolton's short-handed ambulance department, according to former Selectman Ken Troup.

Students as young as 16 can enroll in the program's year-one classes where students meet twice a week for vigorous study sessions with a certified EMT, Farrell said.

Once they have completed the year-one program, cadets take the same tests other EMTs take, according to Lindsey Fuller, a 17-year-old junior and certified EMT from Lancaster said.

"The tests are really hard," Fuller said. "There's a lot of information you have to know for the test."

Once students are certified, they become leaders of the daily teams, according to DeLuca.

Each team is made up of two certified EMTs and two first-year cadets, Troup said.

When they respond to a medical emergency, they are met by the town's full-time EMT, who is in control of the scene, according to Troup.

The cadets go to a debriefing after a difficult call, along with the other EMTs, firefighters and police who responded, Farrell said.

"The school's guidance counselors are also on hand and ready to help," Farrell added.

The EMT program has produced "many people in the medical field," Farrell said.

"We have cadets who are now nurses, physical therapists, firefighters, EMTs, (and) doctors" Farrell said. "We have some former cadets who now teach the program."

DeLuca plans to attend Brown University next fall, where she plans to become a physician. Her work with the EMT Cadets played a large role in her decision, she said.

"It's really exciting," DeLuca said about the program. "It's an adrenaline rush."

Nashoba Regional High School students, from left, Ann-Marie Fisher of Lancaaster, Lindsey Fuller of Lancaster and Rebecca Goddard of Bolton talk about being involved in the EMS program.

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