When in a situation needing emergency services, we typically do not expect to see the young face of a high school student come to our aid. Two local high school students, Mariam Laila Ali from Streamwood High School and Anthony Greco from South Elgin High School, may be lowering the average age limit for emergency responders, but they are no less qualified or dedicated to helping people. Both earned their Emergency Medical Technician certification at Elgin Community College this past year.
Ali and Greco met through their involvement with the Hanover Township Emergency Services Cadet Program, which gives youth the opportunity to learn about emergency services. Both Ali and Greco’s interest in emergency services began at a young age, growing into their involvement with the cadet program, participating in fire explorer programs, and leading to their decision to pursue an EMT certification at ECC.
Ali’s initial interest in emergency services began with spending time with her mom at St. Alexius, where her mom worked as a nurse in the emergency department. “I used to go there a lot as a kid because I liked to see the emergency room,” said Ali. “I would see the paramedics rolling in, and it always intrigued me.” Ali’s blossoming interest led her to join the Hanover Township Emergency Services Cadet Program. The hands-on experience gave her an early start and exposure to what it is like to work in the field. “We go to actual fire and police calls where they need assistance, and we’ll help them with things like traffic control or hose rolling. Those experiences are so interesting, and you learn a lot from being there.”
Ali also became involved in an explorer program through the Streamwood Fire Department. She would go through the experiences a firefighter in training would do, such as doing drills with air bottles, walking through simulated smoke, and hooking up hydrants. After Greco told Ali he was planning on doing the EMT program at ECC to get a jump on his education, Ali decided to join in because of her ongoing interest in emergency services and her familiarity with ECC through the Dual Credit program, where she is completing English 101.
Greco’s entrance into emergency services began in sixth grade through his mom, who worked as a chiropractor. Some of her patients were firefighters and would take Greco for rides in their firetrucks. Along with his early experiences with firefighters, Greco simply wanted to be in a career where he could help people.
He began by talking to John Fahy, senior director of academic programming and public safety training, which led him to begin prerequisite courses such as Emergency Medical Responder. “This was honestly my first ever dive into healthcare classes, and it was a lot of fun,” said Greco. On the EMT course, his experience, along with Ali’s, were met with the same excitement and positivity even while balancing high school and extracurriculars.
“It might be stressful at first, but the more you embrace it and keep telling yourself you can do it, the better you’ll be,” said Ali, who is also involved in the musical and marching band at Streamwood high school. “I almost gave up when going through the course, but I just had to tell myself that I decided to do it because I knew I could; I just had to prove it.” Ali’s entrance into ECC did not stop after completing her EMT certificate. She is currently taking Fire Science & Safety 101 online. “I really like that class; it’s my favorite to do throughout the day. I enjoy the class and the online format.”
One of Greco’s favorite experiences in the EMT course was getting the opportunity to become cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certified. “I would say, out of everything, the best part was the CPR certification,” said Greco. “It was really fun learning that. It was an all-around amazing class.” After completing the courses, students must take the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) exam. “I wouldn’t say the exam was too difficult, just very nerve-wracking. I took a lot of time studying and preparing for it.”
Both Ali and Greco plan to continue their education post-high school as full-time ECC students pursuing a degree in fire science and safety. “I’m very familiar with the campus already, and it’s great knowing it a year before you start,” said Ali. Along with her ultimate goal of becoming a firefighter and paramedic, she is also considering the nursing program at ECC, where she would like to work in the emergency department at St. Alexius, like her mom. Although Greco’s ultimate goal is to become a firefighter, he is also considering a major in business to open new opportunities for himself outside of emergency services.
To learn more about the emergency service degrees and certifications offered at ECC, visit https://elgin.edu/academics/departments/emergency-services/ or contact Fahy at 847-886-5398.