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EMS Training Class Motivates Pennsylvania Teens

EAST FALLS, Pa. -- Eleventh-grader Khalil Blount says when he started high school, he knew he wouldn't like being stuck in a classroom all day.

But the hands-on work he saw each time he passed the firefighting and emergency medical-services training class at Randolph Technical High School caught his eye and drew him to join.

"I have to actually work with my hands to feel accomplished in a way," he said of the class, which taught him how to perform CPR, form a bucket line and other tasks.

He's not alone.

The Randolph Fire and EMS Training Center at the East Falls school launched in 2007, and 60 students have graduated. Forty-four have become certified EMTs and eight are dually certified as firefighters and EMTs.

Classes meet daily - students go to school dressed in uniform on Tuesdays and Thursdays - and are taught by Fire Department Lt. Yolanda Stallings and Keith Davis, a paramedic. Both are based out of the Fire Academy.

The current class has 20 students, 16 of whom are certified EMTs with dreams of working for hospitals, ambulance companies or the city's Fire Department.

"Not only can these young men and women work for us, they can go any place in the country and they can work," said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who first pitched the idea to then-chief executive Paul Vallas. "Any place in the United States of America."

The program, which is partly funded by the Fire Department, also helps Ayers cut training costs.

It offsets the cost of hiring a firefighter, training him first as an EMT and then as a firefighter.

But at Randolph, it's about much more than that.

"I'm listening better and doing what I'm asked to do, not talking back," said Cyerra Olidge, 17, a senior from Northeast Philadelphia. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to do when I'm supposed to do it. When nobody's watching."

Stallings teamed up Olidge with Tia Adams, 17, even though they didn't get along at first.

"There's always going to be issues in your life, and here at the academy, we want to prepare students for some of the adversities" of being an EMT, said Stallings, who, along with Davis, has taught the class since the program's launch.

The teens wanted to get certified, however, and worked through their problems to become a team.

"It was a struggle," Stallings said, "but everyone in the class learned from it."



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