CHAZY - When Ashley Toohill took on her senior class research project, she decided to take on something that wasn't for the weak or faint of heart.
The Chazy Central Rural School student chose to study what it takes to become an emergency medical technician and, rather than simply studying the subject, she chose to take it one step further by actually training to become an EMT. "I could've picked any activity, like oil painting, that would've been something I would've done once and never used ever again in my life," Toohill said. "This is something I can use forever."
Toohill, who will be heading off to college this fall as a pre-med major, said she wanted to get the first-hand experience of becoming an EMT to be able to provide an accurate and detailed report for her class project. And, knowing her high school soccer coach and teacher, Cory Thompson, was a local firefighter and captain of the Champlain Emergency Medical Service, she knew exactly where to turn for help.
"I remember how he would sometimes have to leave practice to a call to take care of people," recalled Toohill. "He was my inspiration. So, I went up to him one day in school and asked if he would be my mentor."
Thompson said there was no question that he needed and wanted to help.
"I think it's important to understand the big time commitment attached to [volunteering]," said Thompson. "I think understanding that at a young age is good."
Toohill has been taking EMT classes twice a week since January and tagging along on calls, giving her the real-world experience she wouldn't get from a textbook.
"It's been amazing,"Toohill said of her experience. "I never understood how important EMTs are or how much work they actually do. Now, I have a greater appreciation for them and everything they do."
One of the first calls Toohill responded to with Thompson was a report of a woman with severe chest pains who was in critical condition when crews arrived on scene. The EMTs were able to stabilize the patient who ended up surviving as a result of their quick action.
"That night I was so excited about it, I couldn't sleep," said Toohill, who assisted Thompson by handing him equipment and supplies he needed on scene. "I was so happy to be able to help. It was intense."
"That's definitely a hook in this business," Thompson said.
Kathryn Brown, faculty advisor for the senior class projects, said she has been impressed with Toohill's commitment to her project and her ambition to go beyond the goal of a good grade.
"Ashley has caught the spirit of the project, which is try something new, try something that is literally a personal challenge pursuit," Brown said. "The senior project always forces you to take the time to do something you've always wanted to try. She really has gone above and beyond."
Though her project is now completed, Toohill will continue taking her EMT certification classes through June 16, when she will take her final exam. As for her future, Toohill said she would like to one day be a surgeon or physicians assistant in surgery, keeping with her what she's learned here.
"Hopefully, I'll still be involved in the EMT world," said Toohill.
(Editor's Note: Toohill and the rest of the CCRS senior class will share their senior projects with the community Wednesday, April 13, in the school's gymnasium from 6:15 to 9 p.m.)