Low-Income Minority Youth Help Themselves by Learning to Save Others

Updated: 03/01/2013 11:02 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

Even with a college degree, young Minnesotans are still finding it tough to find a decent job.

The difficulty is magnified for inner city minorities who only have a high school diploma.

The city of St. Paul, though, is trying to save some of these young people--by teaching them how to save others.

Case in point #1: Clarence Fraser. Two years ago he was playing college football but realized "it was not my calling." That's when he heard about St. Paul's Emergency Medical Services--or EMS--Academy. "I realized i had a real desire to help people," he said.

Since 2009 about 80 students have graduated from the Academy and 70 percent of them are now working in a medically-related field. To qualify for training, participants must be between 18 and 24 years old, live in St. Paul, and meet a low income level eligibility.

"This is a revolution in EMS in general in the Twin Cities," said Dave Page, the Academy's lead instructor. "What we're doing is offering opportunities for low income youth," most of whom are people of color.

Case in point #2: Adriana Cruz Trevino. "I was working at a pizza place and it just went under," she said, "so I was unemployed for a couple months when I ran into this program."

The belief of Academy organizers is that a more diverse pool of emergency responders (like Adriana and Clarence) will also better serve the diverse population of St. Paul. "The only thing I was using my bilingual skills for was taking orders," Adriana said, "and now it'll be more than that."

Adriana wants to make sure that people like her own mother will be sufficiently cared for in an emergency. "Knowing that there will be Hispanic people out there helping other Hispanic people out there who don't speak English, it just makes me feel better," Adriana said. "I'm sure it'll make my mom feel better too."

"We can connect on a deeper level," Clarence added, "and you know make the patient more comfortable with what's going on. And at the end of the day that increases the quality of patient care."

Clarence, who now teaches classes at the Academy, is also back in school studying to become a full-fledged paramedic.

For those who qualify, the Academy is free. It's funded by grants, and by proceeds from a non-emergency ambulance transportation service run by academy graduates. "For them to get experience actually working on an ambulance, transporting patients, then they become very employable," Page said. "And they can really make their dreams come true."

The next session of the EMS Academy begins June 17th. St. paul starts taking applications in April.

For more information: http://www.stpaul.gov/job, http://www.ehs.net/EMSAcademy, and www.facebook.com/EMSAcademy.

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com