BENTONVILLE -- A student's struggle to afford a uniform became the inspiration for a Northwest Arkansas Community College faculty member to create a scholarship to help others in a similar situation.
Scott Byrd, emergency medical technician coordinator at the college, and his wife, Yolanda, recently announced a scholarship named for Dr. Monte J. Gagliardi to support emergency medical services students.
Dr. Monte J. Gagliardi started teaching at Northwest Arkansas Community College in 1998 and served as dean of the Division of Health Professions from 2004 to 2009. He retired from the college in 2012.
Source: Northwest Arkansas Community College
Gagliardi is a former health professions professor and dean at the college and played an instrumental role in Byrd's educational and career success, Byrd said.
"He was so supportive of me as a person it drove me to be a successful college graduate," Byrd said. Gagliardi also helped him obtain scholarships for graduate school, land a job with Central EMS and learn to teach other first-responders.
"There was no hesitation on who I would name it after," Byrd said of the scholarship.
Byrd first saw the need about two years ago when a student approached him saying she couldn't afford the uniform -- cargo pants, polo shirt, boots and eye protection -- required when students rode in ambulances or did clinical work in emergency rooms, he said.
He outfitted her with what she needed and started asking friends in emergency medical services to donate items for other students. The uniform costs about $150, Byrd estimated.
He heard a graduate share her story about starting a scholarship.
"Then it dawned on me, 'Wow, I didn't know you could do that,'" he said.
Byrd and his wife rallied family members who contributed $2,000 to launch the scholarship.
The emergency medical technician program costs $3,792 to $4,136 and the paramedic program costs $6,439 to $8,289, depending on whether the student pays in-district tuition.
The scholarship will be awarded once a year and split over two semesters, said Karen O'Donohoe, annual giving officer with the NWACC Foundation.
Applicants have to be 18 years old, have a 2.5 grade point average and use the money in consecutive semesters, she said.
Though the college has numerous scholarships, few were started by graduates or faculty members, O'Donohoe said.
"It's more rare than just our community partners starting scholarships," she said. "It's just a handful. This is a very special thing. It's a wonderful opportunity for students interested in this field."
Byrd said the next steps are to get the emergency services community, business leaders and others to increase the scholarship so it can play a role in recruiting, especially because of the shortage of emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the region.
The shortage has increased the past several years as Northwest Arkansas continues to grow and as veteran paramedics retire, Grant Wilson, the college's emergency medical services clinical coordinator, said this fall.
The college increased enrollment from 16 to 24 students for the paramedic program. The majority of students have full-time jobs in fire departments or ambulance services.
While the number of paramedic students is up, the number of emergency medical technician students is down, which is an issue because departments can only keep their pipelines full for so long, said Jamin Snarr, director of the emergency medical services program.
There used to be 60 to 90 technician students spread through three classes each semester. Now, two classes have 36 students, according to Snarr.
NW News on 12/09/2017
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