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HUNTINGTON - Among the class of 48 Emergency Medical Technicians-in-training in Cabell County are two students who aren't experiencing any trauma when it comes to planning their futures.

That's because Amanda Manning, a student at Cabell Midland High School, and Catherine Jenkins, a student at Huntington High School, are the first two students to be part of a pilot program that allows one student from each of Cabell County's High Schools to take the EMT training free of charge.

Manning and Jenkins were practicing CPR with dummies among a class of 48 total students Monday night at Cabell County Emergency Medical Services Headquarters along 8th Avenue in Huntington, and that training could help them save the lives of others while planning the future in their own lives, said Marsha Knight, education coordinator for Cabell County EMS.

"A lot of times, students aren't really sure about what career path they want to take," Knight said. "I think we've all been guilty of having no idea what we want to do. If we capture them at that entry level, hopefully it will kind of give them a path for which way they want to go in the future."

Manning and Jenkins are taking the 15-week, 150-hour class that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. If they pass the National Registry EMT Basic Exam, they'll have career opportunities straight out of high school that are applicable to military service, volunteer fire departments, EMS agencies, hospitals, security agencies and other career prospects.

The pilot program includes a tuition waiver for each participant, meaning they don't have to pay the $500 fee or purchase any of their books or other related items for the class, Knight said.

The only requirements for the program was that the students be 18 years old, and an interest in the medical field was preferred, Knight said. Otherwise, it was up to teachers at each school to select the students who would get to participate in the program, she said.

Knight said while she ultimately would like to see students go from EMT training to the paramedic certification programs at Mountwest Community and Technical College or Collins Career Center, she said the training is a good way for people interested in the medical field to get a taste of it and find their own path, saying EMTs and paramedics in Cabell County easily transition into nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other occupations in the field on a regular basis.

For Manning, the class has served as an affirmation that she's had her eye on the right career goal: Becoming an emergency physician.

"It's different every day. You don't have the same thing over and over," Manning said. "You have a mix of all of it together, and that's what interests me. I like a fast-paced setting. The opportunity was amazing to be able to do this. It lets you get to experience and be out there to see if you like this or don't like this."

Jenkins, a soccer player at Huntington, said she'd planned on being a veterinarian until earlier this year, when she tore her ACL and had to undergo surgery and physical therapy.

"I've gone back and forth about being a doctor or a nurse, and I thought this would help put me into the position to figure out which one I wanted," Jenkins. "After this, I'm leaning more toward nursing."

Jenkins and Manning both are taking classes in their respective fields of interest through the career academies at their high schools.

Even if Jenkins and Manning don't pursue becoming paramedics, Knight said their participation in the program is a good sign for their personal futures and the future of the program for high school students.

"You may not like it. That's fine, but you never know until you try," Knight said. "I don't think (being an EMT or paramedic) is put out there a lot. I think they try to lead them more into nursing or being a physician, but they have to start somewhere. They want them to get a bachelor's degree, but that can came down the road. This can help them get a job that they can work while they're in school. It's definitely something that can spark the interest and help them get into the medical field."

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