From GED to EMT: Fulton Co. teens use dual credit to earn medical certification

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Usually it’s the high school first, then college, but some teens in Fulton County are doing things a little backward, earning college credit while taking high school classes.

Maddie Helle and Taylor Tinsman haven’t crossed the stage yet to get their high school diploma, but they’re already one step away from becoming EMTs in Illinois. They took dual credit courses at Spoon River College, learning how to provide emergency medical care while finishing up high school courses.

Tinsman said it was offered to her by Canton High School because she had taken all the science classes they had available. Helle sought it out herself and got approval from Farmington High School’s principal and SRC administration.

Tinsman will graduate from CHS Friday, and Helle will graduate from FHS Sunday.

Spoon River College Curt Oldfield said dozens of students are high schoolers ready to enter the workforce in fields like information technology, health care, agriculture, and welding among others.

Due to leftover COVID-19 relief funds, they covered the cost for all dual credit students this year at an estimated $450,000 value.

“We hear a lot of negativity about high school students today, them not wanting to work,” Oldfield said. “We have almost 60 students who will be walking across the stage tonight that will be bucking that trend.”

For Helle and Tinsman, it was hard work. They attended two five-hour classes a week on top of going to school daily. Plus, they had to get at least 36 hours of ride-alongs with first responders in the field.

“Really being out in the community really humbles you,” Tinsman said. “You realize you’re the first line of defense for someone who is having the worst day of their life.”

Both young women went above the 36-hour requirement. They would take 12-hour shifts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to follow EMTs around and watch them work.

“The people there are great, everyone is so nice and after they call they will take the time to walk you through things, or show you something you didn’t understand,” Helle said. She found the training and coursework fun and plans to take that knowledge to further her career.

“I wanted a foundation to build upon and I wanted to help my community,” she continued. “So I know that once I take the [licensure exam] I can take a job in the area and work for the summer.”

Helle plans to study nursing this fall at Illinois State University. Tinsman wants to continue her education all the way through to becoming a doctor. She will start at Loyola University in the fall, and study abroad in Rome. She hopes to work with the Red Cross using her EMT experience.

“My mother is a nurse and she says a great way for doctors to understand the importance of nurses especially is to spend your time in lower-level care and work your way up to being the boss,” Tinsman said.