The role of “first responder” has a double meaning for OTC student Kyle Heminger. The Forsyth native will soon graduate with not one but two associate degrees in Fire Science and Paramedicine. While that’s a major accomplishment itself, this husband and father of three did it while working full-time as a firefighter for the Ozark Fire Department and part-time as an EMT with the Taney County Ambulance District.
“I’ve been running on about four hours of sleep per night,” Kyle said with a laugh. “This semester, I took 19 credit hours in addition to working my two jobs – but I got it done.”
Kyle, who originally attend Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri on a baseball scholarship, reevaluated his college plans after an injury halted his athletic career. He drew inspiration from his grandfather, who led a rewarding career as a firefighter in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
“Growing up, my grandfather would share stories about the fires he fought,” Kyle explained. “And those stories kept popping into my head when I was trying to decide which career path to take, and that’s how I eventually chose firefighting.”
Kyle took a couple introductory firefighting courses at Three Rivers before moving back to southwest Missouri and landing a job as a firefighter. Soon after, Kyle decided to continue his education. He says OTC was his top pick for multiple reasons.
“I was working at the Logan-Rogersville Fire Department at the time, and I needed a college that offered a lot of flexibility with its course options,” Kyle explained. “OTC caters to nontraditional students in that way, and my instructors were also very accommodating with my work schedule.”
Kyle’s journey through higher education hasn’t been easy, as it’s often required him to juggle work, school and family obligations. But that challenge won’t stop him from continuing his education after OTC.
“With all the advances and changes in the public safety sector, I need to continue to learn so I can provide the best possible care for the communities I serve,” he said.
This fall, Kyle will pursue a bachelor’s degree in fire science administration from Columbia Southern University, and after that, he wants to earn a master’s degree in emergency management. From there, Kyle says he plans to continue his education – learning never stops when you’re a first responder.