Pulling Double Duty: While Working at Sandburg, Allen Williams Studying to Become Paramedic

  Aaron Frey
  Friday, March 27, 2020 3:48 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

When Allen Williams first went to college in 1997 right out of high school, he wanted to study art and had his sights set on becoming a graphic designer. But after a year, he left school for what he hoped would be greener pastures.

“When I got in, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be,” Williams said. “I just got tired of going to school at that age and was ready to get out in the workforce and start making money.”

Williams bounced around jobs for several years before getting hired as a custodian at Carl Sandburg College in 2014. In addition to working his shift, he took a couple classes each semester, trying to pinpoint his passion. He found it last year in an emergency medical technician (EMT) course.

“I wanted to do something in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. Once I went through that, I found it very intriguing and interesting,” said Williams, now 41. “I decided that I wanted to take the full route and become full a paramedic.”

Williams earned his EMT license, then got accepted into Sandburg’s EMS-paramedic program and started it in the 2019 fall semester. The workload can be daunting, even for someone who’s not working full-time. Classes for the program meet twice a week in the evening for five hours at a time, and the curriculum also includes hundreds of hours of ride time in ambulances and observation at hospitals.

“I really wanted to get out there and be in a more fast-paced setting,” Williams said. “Nursing can be fast-paced, but this is never the same. You’re constantly moving and doing different treatments. That drew me in because I like to problem-solve on the run.”

He’s also on the run quite a bit as he works toward finishing the program.

Williams, who lives in West Peoria, typically wakes up at 5:30 a.m., works at Sandburg from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and goes to class until 9 p.m. before making the 50-minute drive back home. If he doesn’t have class that day, he either gives himself an hour break before doing a six-hour hospital shift or is nose-deep in a textbook at home. No wonder it’s not unusual for him to try to sneak in a nap during his lunch break.

“What makes me so mentally and physically drained,” Williams said, “is because I am focused and paying attention so much that I want to take in everything that I can because I know with the type of field I’m going into, if you screw up in one area or the other, you could do damage to somebody.”

Williams is on pace to earn his Associate in Applied Science this fall, and he has every intention of walking across the stage at Commencement the following spring. It will be a hard-earned payoff for numerous long days and nights.

“When you’re not getting home until 11 or 12 o’clock at night and then you have to get back up early in the morning to go to work, there’s times where it’s like, ‘Man, why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this so late in life?’” Williams said. “But I’m always one of those people that pushes past that and thinks once I do get the degree and I do get my license, I’ll be out there, serving people and helping people and hopefully saving lives.”

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Aaron Frey