For many Colgate students the most they get to know about the residents of Hamilton is through the occasional interaction at Price Chopper or stopping to pet a dog while walking through town. However, there are two groups of students who go above and beyond, not only interacting with the Hamilton community but also serving it and the surrounding area. These are the students who are part of SOMAC (Southern Madison County Ambulance Corps) and the Hamilton Fire Department (HFD) as volunteer EMTs and firefighters, respectively. These students have the same responsibilities as any other EMT or firefighter – they go through proper training and are the first responders for Hamilton and the surrounding area.
Junior Jonathan Delman decided to become a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Mount Kisco, New York as a way to challenge himself and make a tangible impact in his community. His sophomore year at Colgate, he joined the Hamilton Fire Department (HFD) for the same reasons. He notes that it was also a way to develop a closer connection with the community.
“I enjoyed Colgate before joining HFD, but felt very little connection with the community of Hamilton and the people within it, and I wanted to change that,” Delman said.
Firefighting is both physically and emotionally demanding, as it can be dangerous, and the people the firefighters are helping are often having one of the worst days of their life; however, according to Delman, that is what makes the job so rewarding.
“The challenges teach you to develop good problem-solving skills and the ability to make quick decisions in stressful situations,” Delman said.
As a student pursuing a career in medicine, junior Katie Steklac wanted experience in a healthcare setting and immediately fell in love with emergency medicine after becoming an EMT. Steklac says that even though it can be time consuming, it’s easy to argue that nothing else she could be doing – whether that is homework or sleeping – is more important than responding to a potentially life-or-death scenario.
Echoing Delman, Steklac notes how the job can be emotionally draining.
“This field relies on experience to truly be successful, and as a young EMT, there’s a tremendous learning curve to follow. It’s a position that requires a great deal of humility and consistent commitment to bettering yourself as a provider, because your decisions directly affect the safety and wellbeing of those who called on you for help,” Steklac said.
When asked what he would say to someone who is thinking about joining HFD, Delman said, “There are few things at Colgate that I would recommend more highly than joining the Hamilton Fire Department. Some of my closest friends at Colgate are people I’ve met through the fire department, and the experiences I’ve had with these people (both on calls and elsewhere) are some of my best memories.”
Likewise, when talking about SOMAC, Steklac said, “It’s honestly the best thing I do, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my free time. I have met many of my closest friends through SOMAC, and I genuinely enjoy hearing about the lives of the patients I treat.”
It is obvious that the opportunity to join HFD and SOMAC has not only been rewarding because of the work they do in volunteering for the Hamilton community, but has also been a source of a family-like community for both Delman and Steklac. It has been a way to learn skills not only applicable when on emergency calls, but also valuable in everyday life.