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Working as a first responder is a difficult but heroic calling that requires courage, compassion, and a profound appreciation for the dignity of the human person. Alumni Abigail Ethridge (’17), Ciara McArdale (’19), and Jonathan Buehler (’19) have each recently started their careers as first responders, crediting their time at Christendom with preparing them for the lives of service they now lead.

A career as a first responder is a noble calling. For some though, a question arises: how does a liberal arts education apply to a career as a first responder? According to these alumni, their time at Christendom was crucial for discerning their vocation and learning the skills that helped prepare them for their future careers.

Ethridge, for example, was just hired as a full-time Firefighter-EMT for the Three Points Fire Department in Tuscon, Arizona. In this role, she responds to fires and medical emergencies and also educates her community through outreach events.

Ethridge works as a full-time Firefighter-EMT for Three Points Fire Department in Tuscon, AZ.

While Ethridge has always been passionate about helping others, she believes that her Christendom education helped prepare her for life as a first responder by strengthening her faith and leadership skills. While at the college, Ethridge served as a resident assistant — a role that is built upon helping others and involves basic emergency response training. In this role, Ethridge developed leadership and interpersonal skills that she now employs as a Firefighter-EMT.

“Being an RA and having the opportunity to connect with students on a deeper level…was an experience that showed me the importance of being a kind, giving, genuine, and sincere human being,” shared Ethridge.

According to Ethridge, the formation she received in the classroom at Christendom further instilled in her both a reliance upon her Catholic faith and a deep understanding of the dignity of every human life, which she draws upon constantly in her chosen career.

“Being a first responder is not an easy calling, but my faith is a continual backbone that carries me through difficult situations, “ stated Ethridge. “The education that Christendom provided for me only strengthened that faith and my passion for helping others.”

Though pursuing a career as a Firefighter-EMT has been a competitive and arduous process, involving many months of physical training and study, Ethridge has no regrets and is excited to be able to serve others through her work.

Ethridge participating in a training simulation.

“Firefighting has allowed me to put all of my talents and passions to use by giving me the opportunity to help people in their time of need, be physically active in fighting fires, and it allows me to have a team that, not only helps others but inspires me to be the best firefighter I can be, ” shared Ethridge.

Ethridge is not the only alumna to recently start work as a Firefighter-EMT. Ciara McArdle started her journey recently as well and is currently serving as a volunteer Firefighter for Warren County, Virginia. After studying, training, and taking part in fire-fighting simulations, McArdle graduated from the Warren County Fire and Rescue Academy in January of 2020. Now, McArdle is continuing to study and train, and is in the active process of being hired as a full-time Firefighter.

As a student, McArdle was highly involved in campus life, participating in the Student Activities Council, running on the cross-country team, serving on the Philanthropy Board, and working an on-campus job.

McArdle currently serves as a volunteer firefighter for Warren County, VA.

“I have always wanted to do something active which helps people in great need,” shared McArdle. “I have a lot of empathy and a lot of energy, so this job brings together both of these qualities.”

McArdle believes her time at Christendom has helped her greatly in her career as a first responder, strengthening her faith and providing her with impactful mentors.

“My education from Christendom has given me examples of characters in history and literature who have taught me the message of courage and redemption,” shared McArdle. “I have learned that those who persevere can come from the worst place to the most beautiful. In this hopeful message I find God, and in every person whom I respond to as a firefighter I hope to give some hope by my example of dedication and perseverance.”

McCardle participates in a training simulation with Warren County Fire and Rescue Academy.

McArdle believes that she did not merely receive information in the classroom at Christendom, but was given an education that inspires virtue, perseverance, and greatness.

Her classmate, Jonathan Buehler, agrees with this assessment as well. Since graduating a year ago, Buehler has earned his EMT Certification from Western Dakota Technical Institute, and he now works full-time as an EMT, providing basic life support and assisting paramedics on an Advanced Life Support ambulance for Valley Health Medical Transport.

For Beuhler, this certification is the first step in his goal of becoming a Firefighter-Paramedic. In addition to his full-time work as an EMT, Buehler volunteers at South End Fire Company in Winchester, Virginia. Buehler plans on completing firefighter training, eventually becoming a full-time Firefighter-Paramedic.

Buehler serves as a full-time EMT for Valley Health Medical Transport.

As an EMT, and as a first responder in general, one needs to be able to think critically, quickly, and adaptively. Buehler believes his Christendom education was essential to developing this skill.

“It’s easy to focus on one specific area and become blind to everything else around you,” shared Beuhler. “But there is often more than one way to solve a problem. Christendom prepared me to step back and look at the bigger picture.”

These alumni are just a few of the Christendom graduates who have gone on to pursue careers serving their communities as first responders. Equipped with leadership skills, adaptive thinking, perseverance, and most importantly, with hearts and minds nourished by Christ, these Christendom graduates are doing an incredible service to their communities.

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