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Firefighter/paramedic says PBSC director was instrumental to his success

Since graduating from Palm Beach State in 2019, Patrick Higley, now a member of the Boynton Beach Fire Department, has embodied the mission of the College, impacting both lives and community throughout his brief yet essential career.

A former U.S. Marine, Higley was hired immediately upon completing his PBSC program. However, his first on-the-job challenge didn’t come from an emergency call for help. On the first day of training, COVID forced a widespread lockdown. “COVID was tough because we were forced to do one-on-one patient response. For me being new, this was a challenge,” Higley recalled. “It was definitely trial by fire.”

With fortuitous advice from friends, Higley found PBSC while working at a resource center for veterans. Using the GI Bill to finance his education, Higley experienced a smooth transition to college life. “The financial aid staff in particular were very helpful and accommodating throughout that process.”

Looking back on his training days, Higley calls Lt. Matt Keeler, director of Palm Beach State’s Emergency Medical Services programs, as the “most influential person and instructor” he had during his time at the College. In fact, Keeler inspired Higley to continue pushing himself throughout his education and training, where he eventually graduated on the dean’s list. That’s not a bad mentor to have as Keeler himself has received the Paramedic of the Year award from Boynton Beach Fire Rescue, where he has worked for 25 years.

Today, Higley assists with training new hires to the fire department, noticing with pride that the majority of them have come through the College’s program. No surprise there as 85% of Palm Beach County’s first responders receive their training at Palm Beach State, a testament to the significance of the College’s role in the lives and well-being of those who call this community home.

Higley is excited for the future, his own and that of the service field to which he is dedicated. “It’s great to see the field growing. With Florida expanding in many ways, there is a ton of funding, with more stations and huge opportunities for careers available.”

Experience has taught Higley that having as much education as possible is key when helping patients. “I love being hands-on and having an impact in people’s lives.”

Higley makes a point of sharing that the fire and EMT community respects Palm Beach State and its training program. “We know how to study, how to interact and what is needed early in the job thanks to PBSC. The College has built a strong foundation, and the formula works.”

When he’s not responding to urgent situations at work, Higley enjoys hiking and kayaking around Jupiter Island. “I use the outdoors as a great way to decompress from work.”

Planning to continue his education in nursing, Higley hopes to return to Palm Beach State as a professor, once again giving back as he has done before – of himself and to the community.

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