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Battling Wildfires and Refining Career Goals

Hannah Henriquez, UCC EMS Student

EMS Student Hannah Henriquez was in high school when she realized her passion for helping others and working in the medical field.

“I was fortunate that my high school had a vocational program where I could earn credit for taking first responder and EMT classes,” she said.

From there she pursued an interest in wildland firefighting and worked on the front line of wildfires throughout the region, including the Whistler’s Bend Fire in Roseburg, which started near the North Umpqua River before being suppressed by a rapid response effort by firefighting crews.

“We were on the front line and there was so much smoke in our face,” she recalled. “Then they told us to hold back, there’s going to be a water drop with the helicopter. I was taking a video of it and the water dropped right on me. It was cool to be in the moment and realize, this is so much bigger than who I am. There were so many people in Whistler’s Bend and being able to stop that fire was really cool.”

Hannah said her time at UCC has helped her refine her career goals to focus on earning a degree in Emergency Medical Services and eventually pursue structure firefighting.

“Once I got to UCC I realized there’s more opportunities and more stability in structure firefighting,” she said. “Especially if I have a medical background.”

Hannah said UCC’s attentive staff and exceptional student services have made a huge difference in her career path, especially after experiencing challenging times following an injury.

“I had a concussion, and it was really hard for me to figure out how to stay in school,” she said. “They made sure I stayed and provided me with all kinds of resources and I love UCC so much. It’s the most community based and family thing I’ve ever been a part of. They’re always there. I feel like I’m home.”

As for Hannah’s EMS coursework, which is part of UCC’s Allied Health career program, she is enjoying the classes and overall experience, which she said has been enriched with great instructors. Her younger brother is also in the program, working with the same faculty mentors.

“I like to help people; I like to be in the community. It’s a big part of me to give back. Because I know what it was like to not have anything at all,” Hannah added.

Success Stories from Umpqua Community College