"As a valedictorian recipient, I feel very proud of the hard work and dedication that is required to be successful in the paramedic education and profession," says Sankey. Photo credit: Kendra Sankey

It all started with a trip to Ottawa in grade 12. That’s when the seeds of Kendra Sankey’s future career were planted.

Sankey, 24, valedictorian for the School of Police and Public Safety, and graduate of the paramedic program says it was a privilege to be chosen for the award.

“It was a tremendous privilege and honour to be chosen to speak on behalf of my class and the PPSI,” said Sankey. “I fully committed myself to the program for two-years so I’m thrilled to have completed it and be chosen as the valedictorian.”

During her last year of her bachelor of science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Sankey says she was “geared up” to head to medicine school and continue learning there. That was before she found out about the paramedic program through a friend of hers.

“I’ve been very interested in the field of medicine since I was in high school,” said Sankey. “One of my best friends had just completed the paramedic program and when I was chatting with her about it, it sounded like a really good fit for my lifestyle. I would be able to have a better work life balance and be able to pursue other interests that I value.”

But that’s not the only way she decided she wanted to work in medical services. Sankey says her interest started also from a road trip she took to Ottawa when she was in high school.

“I’m originally from the east coast, but I came to Ottawa on a trip with Encounters with Canada when I was in grade 12,” she said. “The theme of the week was health and sciences and we were carted around the city and shown parliament, the museums and learned a lot about health and sciences in Ottawa. On one of the days we were given a tour of the Ottawa Paramedic Service headquarters and I remember thinking to myself ‘Wow, this is so cool. I can totally see myself working here.’ Six years later here I am. It’s funny how life happens like that sometimes.”

Sankey was hired with the Ottawa Paramedic Service this summer right after finishing her studies.

When classes were suspended at Algonquin College in March, there was stress in the air as clinical practice hours had to be met by students.

For Sankey, adapting to the pandemic was something that she says was a challenging time for her peers in the program.

“We were pulled off the road in mid-March, and that left a lot of us unsure of when we would graduate because we needed to finish our 500 hours of clinical practice,” explained Sankey. “We were lucky to have such dedicated instructors who worked relentlessly to help us get back on the road to finish out hours.”

Sankey says every year usually comes with a challenge in the program, and the year 2020 sure didn’t disappoint.

“Every year typically has a big challenge that the students need to overcome during the school year,” she said. “In our year we had COVID. It brought us many challenges that nobody really saw coming. We were forced to adapt to then pandemic.”

When thinking back to a proud moment during her tenure in the paramedic program, Sankey instead reflects on the entire experience.

“I’m exceptionally proud of the person that I’ve become and the character I’ve built completing the paramedic program,” she said.

Sankey says she’s often described as someone who’s a hard worker and likes to attribute her success to her passion and her attitude.

“I’m often described as very driven and focused. I attribute all too my success to my work ethic,” she said. “When I’m passionate about something, I’m 100 per cent committed to it.”

Ashley Murfin, program coordinator and one of Sankey’s professors says that she was always a joy to have in her classes.

“Kendra was a joy to have in the program,” said Murfin. “The paramedic program is intense from the very first week and Kendra always came to classes and labs with a positive, helpful and inquisitive attitude.”

When asked about one word that would best describe Kendra, Murfin used the word “dedicated.”

“Kendra showed superior dedication, persistence and perseverance in the paramedic program,” explained Murfin. “I do not think anyone has an easy time through this intense program. It is truly those who dedicate their full commitment to their students, build collaborative lab practice teams and spend the time practicing until everything flows smoothly that do well.”