The biggest lesson I learned that helped prepare me for a four-year school was whenever a hurdle comes my way, make any adjustments that will allow me to keep pressing forward.
Thomas Nelson Community College graduate Sean Martinez takes setbacks in stride. Challenges that may discourage others fuel him to work harder. Despite hearing impairment, he became a paramedic upon receiving an Associate of Applied Science degree having also earned credentials through Williamsburg-based Nicholas Klimenko and Associates (NKA).
The 2012 cum laude graduate thrived as a paramedic but had to shift focus when a work-related injury rendered him paralyzed and ended his career. Undeterred, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Health Science from South University in 2016 and enrolled at Thomas Nelson this summer to complete a prerequisite for a master's degree.
He initially studied respiratory therapy but one day suffered a near-fatal asthma attack. His rescue by a flight medic solidified his decision to become a paramedic. "From then on, I wanted to be a paramedic on the ambulance and eventually I wanted to work on a helicopter," Martinez said.
Inspired by his personal experiences, he pursued his passion to help others by completing certification in 2009 and obtaining a degree three years later. "My goal was to become not just a paramedic, but a good paramedic with a degree. I had many health challenges, but the staff refused to let me give up. Being deaf/hard of hearing can be challenging for a paramedic; but I was given the tools and the advice I needed to succeed," said Martinez.
"For example, something as simple as listening to a person's heart beat or breath sounds was hard, but the instructor told me that all I need is a specialized stethoscope and I was all good," he added.
Martinez deems earning a Bachelor's degree his greatest achievement to date, and he credits Thomas Nelson for easing the transition to a four-year school. "Having good time management and study skills is a must in order to succeed in college, which I learned [during] my time at [Thomas Nelson]. The biggest lesson I learned that helped prepare me for a four-year school was whenever a hurdle comes my way, make any adjustments that will allow me to keep pressing forward," he said.
"I would definitely recommend [Thomas Nelson] to someone especially if they want to go to a four-year school because [Thomas Nelson] can lay the foundation needed to be successful. Also, the faculty are willing to work with their students to see that they are successful."
The Woodside High School graduate aspires to become a physician assistant. "After my injury, I actually started working for [Thomas Nelson] through NKA, the same program that taught my paramedic [classes]. Although I liked working in the office, I really missed medically helping people," said Martinez.
"Sometimes I believe I was born to do something that allows me to help those who are sick or hurt because that's what I wanted to do as long as I can remember… As a child, watching my grandmother's health decline inspired me even more to want to work in the health field," said Martinez.
Martinez plans to apply for a 24- to 30-month master's program and ultimately work in urgent care or family practice. He said the "high-quality education" he received in Emergency Medical Services at Thomas Nelson made the pursuit of his dream possible.