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Western Colorado Community College leaders work the front lines against COVID-19

Response to pandemic marked by direct student engagement

Western Colorado Community College Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Program Director Pamela Holder held back tears of pride as she communicated recent accolades to her students. Throughout their ongoing contributions to western Colorado's battle against the global pandemic, Holder is helping students acknowledge fears and manage uncertainty while embracing opportunities to serve and save lives. 

“I tell the students that 'yes we are going to be nervous' and 'yes we are going to be fearful,' but we can still stand up and ask, 'what can we do to help and lend a hand?',” said Holder. “What better training for the students than to be side-by-side with the best of the best of area healthcare providers? Our students are getting to serve with the doctors and nurses who are out on the front lines.” 

Holder shared her thoughts about the students efforts as they completed a morning shift working in the Mesa County Public Health call center and the COVID-19 testing location where two students assisted nurses in swabbing patients who exhibit symptoms of the disease. In addition to the testing center, Holder and her team at WCCC have been sewing cloth face masks and recently received another order for more than 1,000 units. Prior to the new request, the face mask team had already completed and delivered more than 1,000 face masks to various university and college partners in western Colorado. The efforts were a result of Holder’s resolve to not just stand by, but to stand up and be a part of the solution. 

“The EMT program at WCCC is large and has lots of human resources to serve,” she said. “Because of this capacity, I contacted the Mesa County Health Department and inquired about how our team of aspiring EMTS could help.” 

During the last two weeks, the EMT students divided into multiple teams to cover the community’s call center as well as a face mask sewing and delivery. Some student are also working to help collect nasal swab samples to identify positive cases. Holder scheduled deliveries of masks to area emergency rooms, fire departments and her team is currently working to create masks that will help protect the Grand Valley’s homeless population. 

Becky VanBramer and Amber Salmons are two WCCC students who have worked in all three areas of service including the testing center. 

“We are helping give people peace of mind as we try to get these swabs done because it’s scary for people having to come and see everyone gowned up,” said Salmons. “Its been great though, and as students we are learning a lot that we couldn’t have learned otherwise.” 

VanBramer said that working on the ‘swab line’ has trained them with proper use of personal protective equipment as well as how to manage a crisis event. 

“As students we learn about events like these in text books, but the real thing doesn’t happen that often,” she said. “While it’s a scary and troubling and challenging, there is so much to be learned from this experience.” 

The sentiment of VanBramer is reflected in recent campus communications from CMU President Tim Foster who shared with students his perspective that education, learning and knowledge are the basis for the “unreasoned global response taking place in the world today.”


Written by David Ludlam