This post was originally published on the Colorado Community College System website.
Just weeks into his emergency medical services (EMS) training, Tom Guida was thrown directly into the fire.
“In my clinical, I was in the ER, and we had a young kid—probably 20 years old—coming in with a gunshot wound to the chest. They had me perform CPR on him,” he said. “That was an intense experience right off the bat. I thought, if I can handle this in the first month of class, I think I’m in the right field.”
Guida is one of more than 1,000 Colorado Community College System (CCCS) students who have graduated with support from Care Forward Colorado, a state program that provides zero-cost pathways for entry-level healthcare positions. With initial training under his belt, Guida is now working for Stadium Medical with plans to earn his paramedic degree.
“It’s always been a passion of mine, being able to help people,” he said.” Thankfully, I’ve always been able to to keep a cool head in more extreme situations.”
Finding New Direction
Originally from Connecticut, Guida started college to pursue a career in architecture but was forced to stop due to high tuition costs. He later worked in disaster relief as an AmeriCorps member and traveled the country planning his next steps.
Drawn to the outdoor industry, Guida eventually landed in Colorado. The new setting inspired a new career direction.
“I had my brother out here visiting one time. We were out mountain biking, and he dislocated his shoulder,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the medical knowledge to help him, but I was able to keep him calm and get him to the ER without losing my head. That stuck with me.”
Guida decided to enroll in Front Range Community College’s EMS program. He was shocked to learn that his tuition, fees, and materials would be covered under Care Forward Colorado, saving him about $3,000.
“I always knew I wanted to keep furthering myself and bettering my standing. Education, learning has always been a huge goal for me, and a huge part of my life,” he said. The financial support “was a big deal. It definitely eased a lot of my financial burdens.”
‘A Great Starting Block’
Toward the end of his program, Stadium Medical offered Guida a job on the spot during a mock interview event. Today, he helps transport patients to facilities and works at large concerts and sports events, responding to emergency situations.
“You get a feel for the whole system—how to write your reports, how to check out an ambulance,” he explained. “It’s a good entry-level position and very flexible, which is going to be nice… when I’m taking classes.”
With his new career underway, Guida is looking forward to continuing his education with CCCS and getting additional support from Care Forward Colorado—which also covers paramedic certificate programs.
“Maybe you’ll go the firefighter route, or work in the outdoor industry. Maybe you’ll just stick with EMS or medicine,” he said to aspiring students. “There are so many different ways to take it. It’s a great starting block.”
FRCC now offers 30 no-cost, career-focused degree and certificate programs.