Student from the OEC program smiling

Brendan’s mantra is simple, “Do it.”

The senior at Spring Lake Park High School is the first 17-year-old in the 44-year history of the Opportunities in Emergency Care program to pass both the skills test and the written exam to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

He’s gone deep in Opportunities in Emergency Care (OEC), a track within the Health and Human Services Pathway. OEC provides opportunities for students to learn basic First Aid, or become fully prepared for pursuing careers in clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, in-home healthcare, ambulance services and fire departments.

Path to EMT

For Brendan, OEC has taken him all the way to EMT certification. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians voted last year to allow students under the age of 18 to take the 2-part exam. It’s a change that has worked in Brendan’s favor.

To pass, he completed a 6-station skills test and the written exam. He found out he’d passed the skills test right away, but he had to wait a whole day to know how he did on the written exam.

“I wouldn’t call myself confident in how I did at all,” says Brendan. “I was checking my email every hour. When I saw the message was there, I just sat there for a few minutes before clicking on the results. Apparently, when I saw I’d passed I let out a little squeal,” says Brendan.

This is not just any test.

“I take the written exam every two years to recertify,” says Bill Neiss, OEC program lead and a 38-year EMT veteran. “I walk out every time with the feeling of not having a clue how well I’ve done. So, this is a big accomplishment.”

Student doing hands-on OEC learning with a dummy

When he got word Feb. 6 that he had passed everything it was the culmination of a long journey. Brendan’s freshman year, he took the first aid class and loved it. His junior year he took the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and then Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) courses.

With every class, I loved it. It was engaging and very hands on. So, I just kept going and finished with EMT my junior year. Brendan

This year, Brendan is doing the year-long internship. First trimester focused more on EMT-related content. Second trimester has switched gears to fire. Brendan is going through the fire certification classes right now.

 “Last year, Bill sat me down and talked to me about things like turning in my homework,” says Brendan about his teacher and mentor. “He wasn’t rude at all he just cared. I realized, I have to get it in gear if I want to do this.”

Words of advice

Brendan’s mantra sticks when asked his advice to students considering OEC.

“If you’re remotely interested, do it,” he says. “It’s definitely a lot of work. For EMR and EMT classes, you need volunteer hours and there’s homework. The tests are massive. But, even if you’re interested, I suggest taking the First Aid class right away. If you love it, like I did, take the next step and just keep going.”

Brendan also recommends the internship.

“It is so much fun,” he says. “Not only are you in your own classes, you are helping in other classes.”

Six of Brendan’s classmates also passed their skills test this month. They are: Sade Ayodele, Quyncee Chanthanavong, Emma Jansen, Annie Lyngdal, Haylee Slotness, and Hannah Stoehr.

“It was the first skills test I've ever run where there was not a single retest on any skill,” says Bill.

Those six students are now awaiting their turns to take the written exam.

“I keep telling them, if I can pass, anyone can,” laughs Brendan.

As for Brendan, he’s not wasting any time. He has already sent his application to the state, and they’ve cleared him to work as an EMT in the state of Minnesota. He joins only about 20 others in gaining his certification before the age of 18.

After high school, Brendan hopes to work in a fire department as an EMT while he goes to college to become a paramedic. Given his OEC experiences, those goals are not only doable, he’s already well on his way.

After we spoke with Brendan for this story, Quyncee Chanthanavong became the program’s second 17-year-old to become certified. Congratulations, Quyncee!