Laura Cullinan, left, and Zineb Majaoudou apply a neckbrace to mock victim Cameron Breault while instructor Greg Lambert looks on. The students, all
Laura Cullinan, left, and Zineb Majaoudou apply a neckbrace to mock victim Cameron Breault while instructor Greg Lambert looks on. The students, all seniors at Ayer Shirley Regional High School, are enrolled in the school's EMT program that prepares them for state licensure while offering eight college credits. sentinel & enterprise / Scott Shurtleff

AYER -- An innovative program at Ayer Shirley Regional High School is preparing some students for all types of emergencies.

The EMT certification course is finishing the first semester of its inaugural year, one of only two high schools in Central Massachusetts to offer the new program.

Taught by professional first responders, including firefighters and paramedics, the curriculum teaches the 14 students all aspects of lifesaving and first aid over the two semesters. Although the end goal is to prepare students for the state's licensing exam, some are using it as a launching pad for medical and health related occupations.

Kelsey Bozek has aspirations to be a doctor of pediatric oncology. "This will help me prepare for my pre-med training," she said. Whereas many of her classmates, all seniors, are ready to join the workforce.

"Not everyone wants to go to college," one administrator said. "This is a pathway for them to start contributing immediately back to their community. There is a shortage of qualified first responders, this is a great stepping stone for them."

The course, which spans a mandatory two semesters, combines textbook learning with intensive hands-on training.The students take turns in roles as victims of neck injuries, broken bones, heart attacks and bleeding, as well as physical shock and emotional trauma.

"They're getting it," said co-instructor Al Deshler, who is eager to welcome skilled workers into the field.


Deshler is a career paramedic with the Shirley Fire Department who, along with Greg Lambert, EMT at MedStar, prepared the curriculum in a reverse-engineering approach from the licensing exam. Co-sponsored by Mt. Wachusett Community College, the course is academically accredited and rewards successful students with eight college credits that are transferable.

Varying week-to-week, the schedule is intense and requires anywhere from 9 to 12 hours per week, including several Saturdays. Beginning with medical terminology, anatomy and ethics, the curriculum accelerates to address treatments for many injuries and illnesses, from burns to poisonings. One day's lesson may be to wrap a classmate's mock wound, then the next be the mock victim of toxic ingestion.

There is no part-time involvement in the class, or passive interest. All of the students were aware of the commitment and weighed it against their own professional goals. "This is very helpful in preparing me to be an EMT," said Cameron Breault. "I am interested in that career because I like helping people," the Ayer resident said.