Advantage Shelby County was created in 2016 as a way to build a locally-grown talent pool.
Five years later, the Shelbyville Fire Department has its first firefighter and paramedic created by Advantage Shelby County.
Katheryn Parker, a 2018 Morristown graduate, was sworn into service Monday morning and worked her first shift at Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Shelbyville.
“Advantage Shelby County gave me the opportunity to get my first two years of college paid for … to do my general studies which was a huge help,” said Parker Monday morning at City Hall after her badge was pinned on her chest by her mother, Andria Parker. “It was the same classes I would take at any private institution or school. Once I had that, they gave me more guidance as to what route I should go for a degree, where I should work and stuff like that.
“I don’t think I would be in the position I am today if I didn’t go the Advantage Shelby County route.”
The city, county and Ivy Tech have developed a strong working relationship through Advantage Shelby County. The Paramedic Science program is a relatively new offering that is gaining traction.
“This is exactly what we intended the programs to do … to create a talent pool for us that was trained in our programming which would eventually lead to an employee for us,” said Shelbyville mayor Tom DeBaun, who watched the ceremony Monday morning. “It speaks to the cooperation between the city, county and Ivy Tech because we created this paramedicine program based on anticipation of these kinds of results and Ivy Tech came to the table and said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.” And it worked.”
Advantage Shelby County is a two-year college scholarship program for graduates of Shelby County high schools. In exchange for free tuition, students must meet academic progress standards, complete a minimum of 10 hours of community service per semester and participate in a mentoring program.
Parker earned her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training through Blue River Career Programs in Shelbyville. Once she enrolled at Ivy Tech, a paramedic career became her focus.
“It started out in 2019 when I got offered a position in the paramedic program through Ivy Tech,” she said. “Once I got into the paramedic program, I started working on an ambulance here in Shelbyville.”
Through an arrangement with St. Francis Hospital, the Shelbyville Fire Department is bolstered by an ambulance training truck that is staffed by a paramedic, an EMT and a student.
“The students get 14 months of experience riding on that truck,” said Shelbyville Fire Chief Tony Logan. “That’s what ‘Kat’ did. She was the first one to go through Advantage Shelby County.”
While doing her training, Parker showed interest in firefighting skills.
“I had no idea I wanted to be a fireman. I figured I would ride the ambulance the whole time,” she said. “I got to know the (firefighters), got to see what they were doing and that peaked my interest. So I got on as a volunteer fireman. I started taking more fireman classes. “Eventually, I applied to the department not thinking I would get hired. I just wanted to get experience.”
Training locally is a great advantage in the hiring process, according to Logan.
“We have hired three or four people that have gone through that St. Francis truck that have worked for us for a period of time and we knew who they were,” explained Logan. “The benefit to that is we get to see who these candidates are. It’s different than just an interview.”
Parker already has her Firefighter I and Firefighter II certifications and has completed her paramedic training.
“The benefit today is she is going to start today and she will be precepted for approximately 25 days, that’s our normal precepting time in house,” said Logan. “It’s an orientation program. She will work so many days on the truck just observing, so many days doing certain skills, and so many days working as a paramedic being precepted.
“Once she achieves that certain level, we let her go with an ambulance and an EMT at that point.”
Parker will have 10 shifts of orientation at Station No. 1 and then shifts at Station No. 2 on the city’s southeast side and Station No. 3 at the water tower on the city’s southwest side to learn each building’s routines.
“I am not as nervous as I would have been if I was just coming in off the street because I know all the guys and how they operate,” said Parker. “Since it’s a new job and new for me being in the fire service, I am still pretty nervous but I know it’s a good bunch of guys that have my back.”
Nearly three-and-a-half years after her high school graduation, Parker already has a full-time position in her career choice with not nearly the debt accrued through a traditional four-year institution.
“They said I am kind of a pioneer for the paramedic program … that’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “That was nerve wracking but everything that got me here I think started in the Advantage Shelby County route.”
Parker is the trailblazer and there are already local students following in her path, according to Logan.
“We are hoping to get more people involved with Advantage Shelby County and this paramedicine program,” said Logan. “It’s really been a great pathway for kids to become firefighters.”
To enroll in the Advantage Shelby County program, complete the application process at www.IvyTech.edu/ShelbyAdvantage. The deadline for Class of 2022 graduates is Dec. 15.