Jake Seager's destiny was always public service. "I grew up around it. My whole family was either in law enforcement or firefighting or volunteering. My grandfather was actually a volunteer with Manlius and was one of its first paramedics in the 1970s."
Fast forward five decades and Seager is following in his grandfather's footsteps. He's a Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Manlius Fire Department and a student in Onondaga Community College's new Paramedic degree program which is in its first semester. "The Paramedic program is great. We're covering all sorts of different things that have a much broader scope than EMT classes."
The Paramedic A.A.S. degree program is the product of a unique partnership with SUNY Upstate Medical University. While enrolled at OCC for their first two years, students learn core medical principles along with critical thinking and communication skills to provide emergency care, plus important math and sciences to apply in the field. At SUNY Upstate students will put those principles into action while familiarizing themselves with life-saving gear and rigging.
OCC also has a new Paramedic certificate program which can be completed in 16 months. Students work in simulation labs and complete an internship for credit. Credits earned in the certificate program can be applied to the degree program should a student decide to continue their education.
All students must be licensed EMTs to enter the program. An EMT has the basic skills and knowledge necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non-emergency and routine medical transports to life threatening emergencies. A paramedic is a medical professional who specializes in emergency treatment. Paramedics can provide life-saving treatment for someone until they can get to a doctor.
The Paramedic programs are receiving generous support from Heather Drake-Bianchi who is the founder of and a critical care paramedic with CineMedics CNY, a company which provides medical services on movie sets. When Drake-Bianchi was a college student she was homeless for over a year and couch-surfed with friends. She realized it was impossible to be both struggling financially and doing well in school. That's why she gifted the OCC Foundation $80,000 for the creation of a two-tiered student scholarship program:
- The CineMedics CNY Paramedic Excellence Awards scholarship provides students $2,000 per semester. Full-time tuition for one semester is $2,545. Up to 3 scholarships will be awarded annually. Students must maintain a 3.2 grade point average to remain eligible.
- The CineMedics CNY Emergency Medicine Awards provides students $500 each at the beginning of their first Fall semester to help cover initial extraordinary expenses required by the program. Up to 5 students per semester will be selected based on financial need.
Seager is one of the beneficiaries of her support. He's a recipient of the CineMedics CNY Paramedic Excellence Award. "It means a lot because the whole public safety community is really tight-knit. Heather talked about going from couch to couch with friends while she was in school. It's huge that she's looking to help others. That's what this community is all about... helping each other. Having someone provide financial assistance for this community is huge."
Seager has been part of the public safety community since high school when he was a Police Explorer with the Town of Manlius Police. After graduating from Fayetteville-Manlius High School in 2015, he came to OCC and earned a degree in Communication Studies. Outside class he worked as a volunteer EMT for the Manlius Fire Department, became a firefighter with Manlius, and worked full-time doing security at a casino. After serving as an EMT for about 5 years, he decided the time was right to return to OCC and pursue his Paramedic Degree. "Being a paramedic you are able to do a lot more for your patient such as basic life support versus advanced life support. I wanted to be able to do more for my patients and provide better care than I could before."
As Seager works to earn his degree, he also hopes to play a role in recruiting first responders. "Right now we're in a huge staffing crisis across the country. I want to help get the younger generation involved and show them a pathway into this career field, whether it be through an explorer program which Manlius currently has, EMT classes in high schools, or anything that makes it easier for people to go into that field."