Going Far: Melanie Rivera finds her way back into an ambulance

Paramedic student perseveres through COVID-19 to complete her education and help others

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

At one point when she first moved to Florida from New York City, Melanie Rivera thought she would never be an emergency medical technician (EMT) again. She continued working in the healthcare field in a local hospital, first as a cardiac technician and then as a mental health technician. However, after working in the hospital for a few years she began to hear the call of the streets and feel the urge to return, leading her to the Center for Public Safety at Seminole State College of Florida.

Melanie Rivera takes a selfie. She has red hear and is wearing a medical badge though the badge part is not shown. She is smiling and her hair covers one of her eyes.
Melanie Rivera

Since her original certifications lapsed as she worked elsewhere in healthcare, she completed the Emergency Medical Technician Certification in 2019 and started working on the Paramedic Technology Certificate program. However, COVID-19 threw a wrench in her plans when her classes were forced to move online. “I have to have a teacher in front of me,” Rivera said. “I really tried my best, and I read the book from cover to cover, but it wasn’t clicking, and I knew I had to withdraw from the program.”

Thankfully, public safety programs where hands-on training is essential, had some of the first classes to make their way back to campus with the additional guidelines and protocols the College implemented to protect the students and faculty. Rivera was able to pick up where she left off and learn in her own style.

Rivera claims that she didn’t intend to become an EMT. “It was an accident. It was nothing I thought of doing at all,” said Rivera. “Originally, I went to college to do radiology. So, I did all the pre-reqs and was on the waiting lists and finally when I got accepted into the program, I found out I was pregnant.” Not wanting to expose her baby to the radiation associated with the program, Rivera shifted and entered the EMT program since it was in the medical field and she would still have the chance to help people.

I love helping people in their critical time of need, when it is just you and them.

Melanie Rivera.

“I fell in love with it. I like the spontaneousness of it. Every day is something different,” she said. “I love helping people in their critical time of need, when it is just you and them.” She knows that being an EMT or paramedic isn’t for everyone. “You see people in their worst state, and you have to be compassionate,” she said.

Her career could take her in a few different directions, but she hopes it will take her right into the middle of the action, ultimately to the sky even! Once she gains her five to six years’ experience, she plans to apply to become a flight medic and assist people via helicopter.

About Seminole State College

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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About the Center for Public Safety

Seminole State's Center for Public Safety is a statewide educational resource for all aspects of criminal justice, fire science and EMS. In addition to preparing future first responders, the Center for Public Safety provides advanced, specialized and in-service training for current law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. The College also offers students an Associate in Science degree in all three disciplines. Visit seminolestate.edu/public-safety for more information.