UML Student EMTs Answers the Call

Great job by our own Pridestar Trinity EMTs who also works and attends UMass Lowell EMS/UML – Justin Abeles, Steve McHugh and P.J. Roe!

By Ed Brennen – the whole story

After receiving his master’s degree in security studies at UMass Lowell’s Friday morning graduate student Commencement ceremony, P.J. Roe ’21, ’23 was back at the Tsongas Center at 7 a.m. the next morning, reporting for duty.

As a member of UML’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team, Roe helped provide coverage for the two undergraduate Commencement ceremonies that drew thousands of guests.

“I get to see both sides of the event — lining up as a student and now more of the behind-the-scenes perspective,” Roe said as graduates of the Manning School of Business and Francis College of Engineering filed into the Saturday afternoon ceremony.

Commencement weekend capped the completion of a big year for the student-run EMS program, which assumed responsibility for providing coverage for Tsongas Center events. Previously, student EMTs (emergency medical technicians) assisted Pridestar Trinity EMS, the city’s 911 emergency service provider.

Two EMS workers equip a stretcher with supplies on an arena concourseImage by Ed Brennen
Field Supervisor Joe Mendes, right, helps a fellow UML EMS member equip a stretcher prior to a River Hawks hockey game at the Tsongas Center last December.

“It’s been a huge lift for the students, and they’ve done an amazing job,” says Life Safety and Emergency Management Executive Director Rick Wood, who oversees the EMS program.

While students receive small stipends each semester for their work as field supervisors, senior EMTs and cadets, they earn hourly pay for their detail shifts at the Tsongas Center, which is managed by California-based Oak View Group.

The work, Wood says, “ties nicely” to Chancellor Julie Chen’s priority to provide students with paid career-connected experiences.

Field Supervisor Joe Mendes, a rising senior biology major from Mendon, Massachusetts, led the transition at the Tsongas Center, which hosts more than 100 sporting events (including UML hockey and basketball games), concerts, trade shows and conferences each year.

In addition to scheduling more than a dozen student EMTs for events such as Trippie Redd and the Trey Anastasio Band concerts, Mendes created operational and emergency plans, coordinated with internal and external partners and invoiced for services. He also had to ensure the EMS room (located on the main concourse behind section 103) was equipped with necessary medical supplies and equipment like a stretcher and wheelchairs.

Two EMS workers pose for a photo at a college commencementImage by Ed Brennen
UML EMS members Jon De Leon ’18, left, and Justin Abeles were on duty for Commencement ceremonies at the Tsongas Center.

“We started from nothing, but the first year has gone well,” says Mendes, who was recognized by the university for his efforts with the UMass Lowell EMS Director’s Award during National EMS Week.

Tsongas Center General Manager Keith Vaske welcomed Wood’s proposal last year to have student EMTs take the lead at the arena and says the transition has been “seamless.”

“They’ve always had a presence at our events, but this was an opportunity to weave the fabric of the Tsongas Center even tighter,” says Vaske, who has been GM since 2012. “They have that excitement and passion, which is fun to see. And they have some ownership; it’s their building, at the end of the day, so it’s great to see that partnership.”

Like many of UML’s student EMTs, Field Supervisor Justin Abeles also works part-time for Pridestar Trinity. He’s proud of how the students have taken on the added responsibility at the arena, where they are called on to treat everything from fans hit by wayward hockey pucks to intoxicated concertgoers.

Four EMS workers pose for a photo while college graduates walk behind themImage by Ed Brennen
Graduates file into the Tsongas Center past UML EMS members, from left, Steve McHugh ’22, P.J. Roe ’21, ’23, Angela Piso and Joe Mendes.

“It’s been a big year for our group and how we run as an organization,” says Abeles, a rising junior industrial engineering major from Westborough, Massachusetts. “It’s more concise to have everything centralized with the university, UMass Lowell police and EMS.”

“It’s good for our EMTs to have that experience,” adds Angela Piso, a senior biology major from Franklin, Massachusetts.

The student team still relies on Pridestar Trinity to provide an ambulance outside the arena, as well as EMTs if there aren’t enough students available to work an event.

They also call on alumni like Steve McHugh ’22, who has returned to campus several times to work events like Commencement.

“I’m impressed with what they’re doing,” says McHugh, a criminal justice alum from Wilmington, Massachusetts, who is now in paramedic school. “It’s nice to show that students can do something that a professional ambulance service can do.”

Roe, who now plans to pursue a career in counterintelligence in Washington, D.C., says the change has been mutually beneficial for all involved.

“To step in and run things has been a very cool evolution,” he says.

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