As students in the Opportunities in Emergency Care program at Spring Lake Park High School sat in class on Monday, a man burst into the room, alerting everyone that there was an emergency in the parking lot.
Students filed out of the building to find a man lying on the ground, blood trickling from his mouth. Another man was pinned between a car and a dumpster, wailing in pain.
“It was startling and at first, I didn’t really want to move,” said Corenia Smith, a senior at Spring Lake Park High School. But quickly, Smith leapt into action, working alongside classmates to tend to victims – mock victims, many of whom majored in theater in college.
After students assessed, soothed and even began treating the actors, instructor Bill Neiss yelled for everyone to stop. The injured stood up and introduced themselves as past participants in the OEC program, now volunteers.
A long-standing tradition, mock emergencies allow students to get a taste of what an emergency call will really be like.
“We throw blood into it. We throw screaming into it,” Neiss said. “This is what it’s like.”
Although staples of the program, like these mock emergencies, will remain fixtures, the OEC program has and will undergo some changes this year.
Because Spring Lake Park High School moved to a later start – first period now begins at 8:37 a.m. – OEC classes switched from the first blocks of the day to the last, now 1:10-2:55 p.m.
Though the scheduling may not affect Spring Lake Park students too much, Neiss doesn’t yet know how volunteers might be affected, as volunteers in the medical profession would often come to class straight from the overnight shift, he said.
The shift in schedule is both good and bad for students in other districts. The new schedule does not allow for students attending Totino Grace to participate, but overall, more out-of-district participants have enrolled this year than last year with nine total sign-ups: six from Centennial High School, two from Irondale High School and one from St. Anthony High School.
Total enrollment levels are on par with last year. All classes are full.
OEC has met the first two blocks of the school day since the program began in 1976, according to Neiss.
Also new to the program, participation in a Medical Reserve Corps camp will prepare students to volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps in their various communities.
“Any community where young people are drawn in as volunteers is going to be a better one,” Neiss said.
The camp is scheduled for Oct. 10-12 at Camp Ripley.
Olivia Koester is at