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8 graduate from EMT Academy

Dec 22, 2022
EMT graduates listen to Dean Vickie Chitwood speak.
Gerri Hunt/RCC
EMT Academy graduates, seated from left, Benjamin Brooks, Ceadez Caulder, Eric Matthews, Justin Rogers, John Shue, Bryan Simmons, Tiffany Stukes, and Joshua Wilkerson, listen to Vickie Chitwood, RCC’s dean of Health Sciences and Public Services Technology, during their commencement ceremony on Dec. 15. The students each now hold an EMT-Basic credential.

The inaugural EMT Academy class of eight graduated on Dec. 15, 2022, finishing the program with a 100 percent pass rate on the first try. The trainees passed both the RCC final exam and the North Carolina State board exam, earning their EMT-Basic credentials.

Rockingham Community College partnered with Rockingham County Government to offer the Academy, to help fill vacancies in the county’s EMS department. The students attended school while also working as full-time employees of the county as trainees.

The graduates are Benjamin Brooks, Ceadez Caulder, Eric Matthews, Justin Rogers, John Shue, Bryan Simmons, Tiffany Stukes, and Joshua Wilkerson.

During the summer, the announcement of the new EMT Academy drew in 38 applicants. Eighteen were selected for interviews, 11 showed up, nine were selected for the Academy, one had a conflict, and eight went through the training.

Dr. Kinlaw speaks to EMT Academy students during their graduation ceremony.
Gerri Hunt/RCC
RCC President Dr. Kinlaw speaks to EMT Academy students during their graduation ceremony.

The success of the trainees is a testament to the students, to the support of their families and friends, to the EMS faculty and staff, to behind-the-scenes work, and to the support services during the Academy, said RCC President Dr. Mark O. Kinlaw, as he welcomed everyone to the graduation ceremony.

Rodney Cates, director of Emergency Services for the county, agreed.

“We could not be prouder of you and your efforts. Your hard work and dedication do not end tonight, it only begins, so get ready for the ride – it’s a good one,” he told the graduates.

“Families, you get to hear our joyous triumphs of life-saving, our complaints over the inhumane conditions that we may have to see, and you also hear our cries for calls that didn’t go the way we that thought they should go,” Cates continued. “Families are just as much a part of our success as our instructors are, so we thank you for the support you have given these people throughout the last eight weeks of their lives.”

Cates challenged the graduates to strive to make positive impacts every day, and to continue their education throughout their career.

And they are getting chances at both of those challenges quickly. Their shifts as official EMT-Basics started within days after graduation, and they will be back for their second phase of the Academy this spring to obtain their EMT-Advance credentials.

Graduate Ceadez Caulder, of Greensboro, reflected on their eight weeks of action-packed learning.

EMT graduate Ceadez Caulder speaks during the EMT Academy commencement ceremony.
Gerri Hunt/RCC
EMT graduate Ceadez Caulder speaks during the EMT Academy commencement ceremony.

“We’ve done so many lectures, hands-on activities, and riding on the trucks, there was not a time when we weren’t learning something new,” she said.

“We found ourselves in different terrains where we had to figure out the safest and most efficient ways of transporting patients to areas where they could be effectively treated and transported. It gave us unique insights as to how this feels for patients,” Caulder continued. “For example, I know now how it feels to be taken out of a tree. Tiffany knows how to be taken off of a hill. It was very valuable to see how we affect patients in those scenarios.”

She pointed out that while she and her classmates come from different paths, such as medical assistants, stay-at-home parents, a college student, and even a bull rider, they truly became a team during their training.

“The EMT Academy has not only given us an opportunity for new career paths, but to create lasting bonds and skills that will grow stronger over time. We are excited to put everything we learned into practice,” she said.

Paramedic Avery Howerton thanked the students for their attention when he taught them.

“You showed me that you have the passion and the desire to learn this and get out there and start your new careers,” he said.

Along with Howerton, instructors included Ronald Hill, Jason Collins, Natasha Bullins, Hannah Bouchard, Christina Illiano, Rodney Cates, Mark Harris, Randy Young, Stephen Edwards, and lead instructors Justin Stewart and Brian Ward.

Vickie Chitwood, RCC dean of Health Sciences and Public Service Technology, has been with the trainees from the days they interviewed through their graduation night. 

“I’ve seen them grow from that nervous candidate that sat in front of us into these professional, on-time individuals in our Owens Simulated Hospital, and they make me so proud,” she said.

Turning to the graduates, she said, “You all are why we do it. Students like you make me want to get up and come to the college and teach every day. You make us want to do it. You’re great, and I am so happy and proud of you.” 

With the planning of the second phase of these training for these graduates is underway, there are also discussions of the next EMT Academy.

“The need is still great here and statewide. I am hopeful to get a new round of trainees in the classroom soon,” Cates said.

~Gerri Hunt, RCC Director of Public Information


Rockingham Community College
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Wentworth, NC 27375


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