"You Are Meant to Be Engaged. We All Are." How an EMS Student Leader Connected with Community
Ligia Monterroza Orellana ’23 has been part of Bard Emergency Medical Services (BEMS) since her first year at Bard. As a chemistry major on the pre-med track, she has spent nearly eight semesters doing rigorous STEM work while volunteering at BEMS. Now, in her last year at Bard, Ligia is Co-Director of BEMS alongside Huba Zaman ’23. I sat down with Ligia recently to learn more about her engagement with the community has grown over the years.
“I say this with a humble heart—I feel very honored to be part of EMS,” says Ligia, who experienced a transformative personal journey during her years of service.
As Co-Director of a team of around 30 people, being involved in EMS is not for the weak, especially as we’re all rebuilding what COVID-19 impacted. When Ligia joined the squad there were 30 people in BMS, then as COVID-19 hit, only 10 remained. It was a scary time for the squad. “I was given the privilege to kind of build from the ground an entire team again,” says Ligia. “That’s like my baby right there,” she adds.
While serving as the Head of Hiring for a few years before her current role, Ligia was able to not only help build a new squad, but was also able to reconcile with some her previous bad experiences with health care. As a woman of color, Ligia describes how she, just like many women in her community, struggled to access good baseline care. She had been very disillusioned with healthcare services before joining EMS but through her work she was slowly able to heal from these bad experiences and go on to provide pre-hospital care to the Bard community and to women just like her.
Ligia explained how EMS is “like a bridge” for Bard and what it provides to its members. “What’s heartwarming about EMS is that we are students,” she says. Some people on the squad may be your peer counselor, your classmate, or a familiar face that you see at Down the Road Cafe every weekday. Because Bard is such a close-knit community, having an EMS squad made up of peers who know you and have your best interest at heart plays a huge role in the quality of care. In addition, being part of BEMS provides its members with the opportunity to develop skills they would not have learned in a classroom. A member of BEMS for her entire undergraduate career, Ligia has noticed how much she has grown as a result of being part of the squad. “It’s helped me grow as a professional, as a friend, as a sister,” she adds.
In addition to being Co-Director of BEMS, Ligia is also part of the news team at La Voz, a print Spanish-language magazine catering to the Hudson Valley Latino population and originally a Trustee Leader Scholar project that was launched in 2004. Ligia serves as a translator, editor, and writer for the magazine, focusing primarily on health. She is currently curating a resource list for POC women’s health in the Hudson Valley and her goal is to provide resources for women who have experienced similar struggles receiving baseline medical care.
Ligia also plans on working with Health Services on campus to create a resource list for women of the Bard community to find the healthcare they need. The large amount of OB/GYN EMS calls on campus recently show just how needed a resource list like this is.
For BEMS, Ligia is also working to create a protocol for mental health calls. “The mental health needs for students over the past few years…have become more evident, more and more as the semesters have passed,” she says. Through her focus on healthcare and making quality healthcare accessible to all, Ligia embodies what it means to be engaged in your community in your own way and seek to make people’s lives better.
When asked how her definition of being engaged with the community has changed over her years at Bard, Ligia paused and reflected. “Yes it has 100% changed,” she says. “I feel like for me being engaged seemed more like a privilege because it’s something that you get to do if you have time, if you have your resources. When you come from certain backgrounds, you don’t have your resources."
“I’m a first generation student working 32-40 hours per week to cover school expenses and even family expenses at times. Being able to take an active part in the community, to shine light on issues that I care for or that my peers care for, seemed very challenging,” says Ligia. “I recognized that you need more than motivation and passion. You need economic resources and a supportive network that personally I did not have when I was a freshman. However, as I advanced in my years at Bard I was able to see that being engaged is part of my rights and that it does require work, persistence, discipline and sacrifice but that is something I get to do as part of the community.”
Ligia says that students should be able to “give recognition to yourself for what you are capable. Give yourself praise because I think it is very easy to get unmotivated when you’re on the path to get engaged. You are meant to be engaged. We all are.”
BEMS is a 24/7 student-run service, confidential, and free to use. “The best way to support us is to use us,” Ligia says. “we will go above and beyond to provide you quality care and align with the needs you have.”
For emergencies, contact security at 845-758-7777. To get in contact with the BEMS Directors, email [email protected].
Post Date: 02-23-2023