Increasingly, schools are formalizing community service programs, designing school-wide service outings and mandating a specific number of service hours to earn a degree. Gill, however, has held fast to the belief that volunteering is highly personal, asserting that for contributions to be authentic and meaningful, they should be encouraged but not mandated. The risk is that not every student will take part in community service—although historically at Gill those students have been few and far between. The payoff is in seeing students undertake commitments that truly resonate with them and pursue work in which they have an emotional investment. Not surprisingly, the most service-oriented students often fly under the radar. They volunteer off campus, during evenings and weekends, and they don’t typically think of their contributions as newsworthy; it’s just something they enjoy doing.
Four such students came to our attention this fall: seniors Matt Petit and Christian St. Germaine and juniors Sarah Caminito and Jack Herrlin. Each of them is a certified EMT and volunteers with a local squad.
Seniors Petit and St. Germaine have been volunteering with the Mendham Borough Squad for over a year now, having earned certification in the summer of 2015. St. Germaine traces his interest in becoming an EMT, in part, to his freshman unit at Gill which involved a visit to the Bernardsville EMT squad as well as training in CPR. "Seeing that demonstration sparked my interest and motivated me to seek out my town squad," he says. Similarly, Petit wanted to explore whether a career in medicine would be a good fit for him. Becoming an EMT allowed him to get a better sense of the work, while also helping the community. In college next year, both boys plan to join campus EMT squads and St. Germaine intends to study pre-med.
Once they decided to pursue EMT certification, they didn’t hedge their bets. Petit took 180 hours of coursework last summer. St. Germaine initially took a CPR class to earn basic life-saving certification and then took a summer class at the Jersey Shore. "The class met eight hours a day, five days a week for five weeks,." he says, adding, "I also spent 10 hours at the Riverview Medical Center to gain experience aiding doctors in the emergency room."
Since becoming certified last summer, Petit and St. Germaine have been volunteering at the Mendham Borough First Aid Squad. They go on weekends to help stock the ambulance and review updates. Most important, they respond to EMT calls whenever their school schedule permits—usually about once a week during the academic year.
When asked to share an incident that made a lasting impression on him, Petit says simply, "There is no specific moment that has stood out to me; the entire experience is special." He continues, "Really, the idea of helping others and saving lives is what is special about the entire process of being an EMT." St. Germaine recalls a woman thanking the EMTs and saying how happy she was to see so many young faces on the squad. He offers, "She said we would do big things in the future; I will definitely try my best to make that come true."
In mid-August, Herrlin also joined the Mendham squad, after having dedicated himself to 220 hours of coursework and having earned his state EMT certification. For him, certification is just the beginning. He has every intention of continuing his training and learning as much as he can about providing medical assistance to others. "As EMTs, we have to be prepared for virtually anything, whether it be a major accident or minor scrapes and bruises," he says. Although still a junior, Herrlin already knows that he wants to continue as an EMT in college. He offers, "I just started, but I am eager to learn all I can."
Caminito also passed her state exam this August. For her the decision to become an EMT was inspired by her dentist. When she told him that she was considering becoming a dentist herself, he suggested that she pursue work as an EMT. Caminito liked the idea and enrolled in a summer class at the Westfield Rescue Squad. After passing her state exam in August, she signed on to be a cadet (students 16-18) with the Branchburg Rescue Squad. "I haven’t started yet," she said, "but I cannot wait."
Stay tuned for more community service profiles, highlighting the important contributions of our students.