HARTFORD, Conn — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shortages everywhere, including Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. However, Earn While You Learn (EWYL), sponsored by American Medical Response Inc., is working to fill the ranks and make the field more inclusive.
It pays students to earn their EMT certification and eliminate barriers many may face when looking to further their career.
Thanks to the program, newly engaged couple Prince Pope and Essence Flowers are living their dream of serving and saving lives together in the greater Hartford area.
"With a program like this, it makes it much easier to think that your dreams are possible," said Flowers.
Flowers was in the first cohort of graduates in 2021 for the AMR - Greater Hartford/ Northeast, CT, and Pope graduated with the 2022 class on Thursday evening.
"The fact that they paid us actually to do this course is amazing because we don't have these chances sometimes in the areas we grew up in," said Pope.
Flowers agreed, adding, "It is sometimes a money thing that sometimes people don't try to further their career or education."
There's a big push to bring diversity to the EMS field. Paramedic Field Training Officer Chaz Milner said she sees it making a difference.
"We've been able to try to develop some balance so our clients, as well as our providers, reflect each other," said Milner.
Milner said it's a reflection that is genuinely needed.
"It's important so that people can feel that their needs are being met and that they have others that look like them that can relate directly to their problems and the things that they feel," explained Milner.
2022 Earn While You Learn class had nine students, more than 50% diverse in race and gender. Milner said the class was majority female.
"Emergency medical services (EMS) have always been male-dominated, so it's really exciting to see more women in the course this year," Milner said.
While this program has opened new doors for many, Pope said this is just the beginning for him and his Fiancé.
"I hope I can be the best version of myself as an EMT as possible, and I can study this for a while and become a paramedic," said Pope.
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