College of the Canyons celebrated the 50th anniversary of its emergency medical technician program in a ceremony on Thursday.
The program, now the second oldest in Los Angeles County, has trained more than 5,000 EMTs since 1972. The short ceremony was held in COC’s Institute of Culinary Education’s dining room, which treated students and guests to a breakfast made by iCUE’s students.
Edel Alonso, president of COC’s board of trustees, said if you’re having a medical emergency in Santa Clarita, there’s a good chance you’re being treated by someone who came from this program.
“For the past five decades, we have provided EMT training to thousands of students who have gone on to serve the residents of Southern California as EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, nurses, and much more,” said Alonso. “In fact, if you call 911 in Santa Clarita today, there’s a good chance that the men and women who come to help you have learned their skills in the COC EMT program.”
The program has been described as “rigorous” and “intense” by its students, but professors say it has to be when the skills students learn today could help them as a professional in a literal life-or-death situation.
“It’s very intense,” said Trevor Rein, an EMT student at COC. “I would say that what helped draw me as a student is to know that my professors are here to teach us. It’s an intimidating program, because we hear that there is less than 50% success rate with passing nationwide, so that’s pretty intense.”
Rein said that in one of his classes 30% of the students had already dropped out in week six of 16, because they either did not meet the requirements or decided the field wasn’t for them. Rein said it was the support of his professors and teacher’s assistants that helped him persevere.
“Our book is 1,700 pages and we literally have to read [and] test on it in 16 weeks, on top of skills, so it’s just all-around super intense. It’s not enough time to cover it,” said Rein. “But having our professors there — my professor [on] day one gave us his cell phone number and said, ‘I’m here for you 24/7. Reach out to me, I’m here to help you.’ TAs have absolutely given their phone numbers, too, so I feel like there’s been tremendous support.”
EMT student Jade O’Connor said the camaraderie among the students is another reason they’ve been able to push through the trying program.
“It’s been super intense, really stressful. But it really helps that the professors are so supportive, and they reach out to us and it makes sure we’re doing good,” said O’Connor. “And same with our classmates, you know, we form like really strong bonds with them. We do study groups. It’s a lot of teamwork, which is what I really like about it.”
Following the ceremony O’Connor, Rein and COC EMT student Ryan Liljedahl gave a live demonstration (on dummies) of skills and procedures they’d learned in the program.
In addition to speeches from faculty and staff, the program was also presented with awards of recognition by representatives of the offices of Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and state Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita.
“We’re grateful for the life-saving service our EMTs provide to our community as well as other surrounding communities across our nation,” said Omar Torres, assistant superintendent at COC. “And so very proud of the 50 years that College of the Canyons has had the opportunity to serve as a partner in saving or providing life-saving skills for our students, and for our graduates, so that they can support our community.”