Youth explore EMT careers at Shelby County summer rally

Southwest EMT instructors Craig Quinn and Rachel Trigg at the Shelby County Summer Youth Firefighter and Emergency Services Rally.

Southwest EMT instructors Craig Quinn and Rachel Trigg at the Shelby County Summer Youth Firefighter and Emergency Services Rally.

Instructors Craig Quinn and Rachel Trigg from Southwest’s Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Program reached out to nearly two hundred young adults at Shelby County’s Summer Youth Firefighter and Emergency Services Rally held July 5 at the Shelby County Fire Department headquarters. Quinn and Trigg handed out brochures and answered questions from prospective students about the benefits of enrolling in the program. “This event is a prime opportunity to talk to students about Southwest and our EMT program,” Quinn said. “I know these kids are young, but it’s never too early to start learning about higher education and what Southwest has to offer.”

The event was part of Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ summer work program where young adults ages 14-24 learn about how their local government functions and gain experience and job skills by working at different county offices or outdoors on conservation and beautification projects. Kim Cox, administrator of Shelby County’s community service for engagement and outreach, said participants also hear from a wide range of speakers in different businesses and non-profits who explain what their organizations do. “We have people in the tops of their industry come and talk to them,” Cox said. “We had the president of SunTrust bank come in and talk about planning for their professional future. So these kids are gaining work experience and getting exposure to things they never would otherwise. It’s a great program.”

This event was an opportunity to gain a first-hand understanding of how Memphis area fire departments, ambulance, and rescue units function, what equipment is deployed, and how it is used. The youth saw nearly two dozen pieces of equipment from different fire departments in Shelby County and gained insights in to what it is like to be in the fire department. Lt. Shaun Tucker, who supervises Shelby County Fire Department’s paramedic squad, said being an EMT is one of the most rewarding jobs they will ever have. “I truly believe what we do is a calling,” Tucker said. “It’s not a career for everybody, but it is very rewarding.”

Fire Chief Alvin Benson added that there is a shortage of paramedics throughout the country and that EMTs earn a good living. “You can be making an average of $40,000 at 23 years old working 10 days a month as an EMT,” Benson said. Benson said it only takes two years of training at a college like Southwest to become an EMT, and there are jobs waiting to be filled at the Shelby County Fire Department the minute they graduate. “If I were a high school graduate, I’d go to Southwest for two years and be a paramedic,” Benson said. “And I will hire you as soon as you turn 21.”

EMT instructor Rachel Trigg said Southwest offers three levels of EMS professional training: EMT basic, advanced EMT, and paramedic. The courses are designed to train EMTs to respond to a variety of medical and traumatic conditions in unpredictable situations. “They will be job ready and also earn an associate degree,” Trigg said. “Some people go in to a career saying they want to help people. This is one way that they can.” Merry Mattix, assistant professor and EMS and Fire Science Program director, said events like the summer youth firefighter and EMT rally are a good place to introduce young adults to Southwest and get them interested in a career as an EMT. At least one student enrolled in the EMT program as a result of their recruitment efforts. “I think it is a valuable tool for recruitment,” Mattix said. “Especially the sessions for the older interns that were college-ready or already enrolled in college but were undecided about a major. We are excited about this opportunity to attract more students to Southwest.”


A firefighter with the Shelby County Fire Department explains to a group of youth how a ladder truck is used in emergency situations.

A firefighter with the Shelby County Fire Department explains to a group of youth how a ladder truck is used in emergency situations.

Shelby County Fire Chief Alvin Benson talked to rally participants about paramedic and firefighter careers.

Shelby County Fire Chief Alvin Benson talked to rally participants about paramedic and firefighter careers.