Student Stories

Angel Cisneros Thorsvold

EMS and Structural Fire Science graduate 
Fire-line medic and transport paramedic  

Whether she's shouldering a medic's backpack and flying to forest fire incidents around the West, or transporting hospital patients across the High Desert, Angel Cisneros Thorsvold leads a diverse and exciting career as both a fire-line medic and a paramedic.

A former supervisor for Trader Joe's, Thorsvold found herself craving a career switch, something that offered challenge and service to others. She began with an EMT class at COCC. "I was the oldest and the shortest in my class…and the only female," she says. Things took off from there, and her original plan to become a flight nurse grew into the pursuit of an occupation that she'd never heard of — fire-line medic — thanks to the suggestion of a COCC instructor. 

Angel Cisneros Thorsvold, EMS and Structural Fire Science graduate

Thorsvold completed her EMS degree and then her Structural Fire Science  degree a year later; the combination is a three-year commitment. Along the way, she volunteered with the Sisters Fire Department and was humbled to serve as president of the department's fire association. She now splits her time seasonally as a fire-line medic and a transport paramedic. "I like the whole variety," she says. 

Recently accepted into the medical unit leader course for the U.S. Forest Service — setting her up for her next professional phase — Thorsvold is already expanding her career: "For when I can't carry that 40- or 50-pound pack," she laughs.


Jerimiah Kenfield

EMS and Structural Fire Science graduate 
Battalion Chief and paramedic, Crook County Fire & Rescue; part-time COCC EMS instructor 

Having literally grown up around a fire station — with a father who was a career firefighter — Jerimiah Kenfield lived and breathed emergency work from an early age. He became a junior firefighter at age 16 and never looked back. 

"I learned that being a paramedic was pivotal in prehospital care when responding to emergency scenes," says the Crook County Fire & Rescue battalion chief of his early understandings of the profession. His EMS training at COCC provided those fundamentals. 

"I have always been impressed with the wealth of knowledge and dedication among the faculty at COCC."

EMS graduate Jerimiah Kenfield

Kenfield learned more than lifesaving skills — he saw his instructors' dedication and strived to bring that same commitment to his own work. "I have always been impressed with the wealth of knowledge and dedication among the faculty at COCC," he says. "There is a tremendous amount of ownership, dedication, and professionalism in the College's EMS program." 

Now a battalion chief with Crook County Fire & Rescue, and a part-time COCC EMS instructor, Kenfield is committed to a dual mission: actively serving his community and training future first responders. "The best advice I would give a student is to become affiliated with an organization while going to school so you can apply the knowledge and skills you are learning," he shares. "This helps reinforce your basic knowledge and skills that you will build on over your career." 

Kenfield received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Structural Fire Science and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Emergency Medical Services at COCC. He's working toward a Bachelor of Science at Eastern Oregon University, majoring in fire service administration with a minor in communication studies. 


Trish Connolly

EMS and Structural Fire Science graduate 
Battalion Chief of Administration, Bend Fire & Rescue

It was a fleeting summer job — meant to support her studies in becoming a sociology professor — that caused Trish Connolly to rethink her career path.

"I worked as a wildland firefighter during the summers," says the Bend Fire & Rescue battalion chief, "and it sparked an interest in me I didn't know existed. I loved the physical demands of the job, the team focus, and the fact I didn't know what I would be doing from day to day." Serving the public, she realized, was her true calling — and she began imagining herself on the hot end of 911 calls.

"The teachers in these classes had practical experience that gave fantastic insight into what it was like to treat patients in the field. I found the classes exciting, informative, and engaging." 

Trish Connolly, EMS and Structural Fire Science graduate  Battalion Chief of Administration, Bend Fire & Rescue

Soon after enrolling at COCC, Connolly earned a Paramedicine degree to meet the qualifications required by most fire departments. "My medic classes were challenging and taught me skills that I could easily transition from a classroom setting to fieldwork," she recalls. "The teachers in these classes had practical experience that gave fantastic insight into what it was like to treat patients in the field. I found the classes exciting, informative, and engaging." 

Ultimately, Connolly would also earn her Structural Fire Science degree and make history by becoming the first female firefighter to serve Bend Fire & Rescue, later working her way up to battalion chief, another first as a female for the Bend agency. Today, she helps guide the department with policy-making, communications plans, and operations oversight. She has the well-being of the entire community in her daily mission. 

"My schooling at COCC made my career possible and gave me the foundation of knowledge I needed to be successful at every step of my profession," she adds. "Having the responsibility of caring for someone at their worst moment is intense, but also fulfilling beyond description. It has been an honor to work in this field, to be a member of my department and serve my community." 


Caitlin Lucia

EMS Graduate

"I moved to Oregon about six years ago after working in a Maryland high school coaching theatre. I enrolled at COCC to explore this new career as a possibility and was immediately hooked — I knew I had made the right decision.

"After finishing my EMT-Basic, I began to volunteer with Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District. Between my experience with that amazing fire department and my classes at COCC, I felt prepared to start working as a Basic while I pursued my Paramedic.

"Cascade Medical Transport of Oregon was top on my list as an employer. They offered a flexible schedule and great pay that allowed me as an older student to continue taking classes and working on my career. I graduated from COCC with my associate in Paramedicine in 2019. That year was difficult for all with the onset of COVID, but my faculty and all of our lab instructors did everything in their power to ensure that my class would get their full education and graduate on time. I am touched at the lengths they went to in order to secure our program and grateful for their persistence.

Caitlin Lucia, EMS Graduate

"COCC and Sisters had also given me a basic education in wildland fire and various rescue practices. I utilized this education to help expand Cascade Medical Transport of Oregon's Wildland Medic program. I am now the recruitment and retention coordinator as well as the duty officer in charge of the Wildland program. I know that with my education and gumption I have built a career for myself in Central Oregon."