May. 3, 2021
AUSTIN, Texas — Lorenzo Canseco, who is graduating in May 2021, not only persevered as a college student during the pandemic, but managed to thrive as a student, volunteer and peer mentor, embodying what it means to be a St. Edward’s student.
After leaving his job as a firefighter and EMT (emergency medical technician) to return to school full time, Canseco continued to volunteer with the South Hays Fire Department during the pandemic while working on his degree in Chemistry and studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). His dedication has paid off both in serving his community — a key tenant of the Holy Cross mission — and earning a coveted spot in medical school. Canseco will be attending the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio this fall on a full scholarship.
As graduation approaches, Canseco reflected on this demanding time and the support he received from St. Edward’s along the way:
Pursuing a Dream
I am a “non-traditional student,” or a working adult returning to college, who first began undergrad at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2012. I was there until 2015, at which point I moved to Austin and became a firefighter/EMT. I volunteered with a department and worked full time with another department until 2019, then decided to pursue my dream of becoming a physician.
At that point, I quit my career firefighting job and started school at St. Edward’s while continuing to volunteer. Fast forward to today, I recently applied to medical school and was accepted to three programs in Texas, from which I chose the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
Now, in terms of my experience here at St. Edward’s — It has been great! The close attention that I get from instructors has helped me to succeed through the difficulties of being a returning student. St. Edward’s also offered me so many opportunities to develop skills outside of the classroom, such as working on teams to do research, teaching and leadership. There were so many resources along the way that set me up for success.
The two noteworthy mentors that I had were my department advisor, Dr. Kopecki-Fjetland, and my pre-med advisor, Jason De La Rosa. These two people have gone above and beyond in helping me grow through my time here, become a better student and succeed in all of my goals.
Answering the Call
I continued to volunteer as a firefighter/EMT (in San Marcos) for about 20 hours a week outside of class. When the pandemic hit, the department immediately began asking for increased staffing to keep up with a higher call volume and lower workforce due to people having to isolate themselves.
In many cases, my interactions with patients were stifled and uptight due to the amount of protective equipment we had to wear (gown, mask, face shield, gloves, glasses, hat). I felt like I actually made more of a difference outside of COVID calls when my team and I would respond to a house fire, car wreck or rescue.
Outside of responding to calls, I also spent a significant amount of time teaching at the department and leading training for less experienced members. I’ve always found the teaching aspect to be the most rewarding part of being a firefighter/EMT, simply because it’s a great feeling when I hear that someone I taught and mentored went on to save a life or help a person in need.
Gaining Perspective, Purpose
I think my time as a firefighter and EMT has been critical to my experience at St. Edward’s.
Through all the time that I spent leading and teaching others at the department, I was able to learn a lot about how others may think or learn. I also developed a significant amount of patience. Because of these things, I often found myself in a great position to help those in my class who may have been struggling for one reason or another.
I think that serving during the pandemic was especially important in teaching me resilience. At the peak, I was volunteering 40 hours a week, studying for the MCAT, taking classes, applying for medical school and trying to keep my relationships afloat, too.
There were many moments that I felt that I wanted to quit, but I knew that every single thing I was doing was important. If I quit volunteering, I would give up on the people in my district who depended on my team and me. If I slowed down my educational pace, then I would give up on my future career as a physician and opportunities to help so many more people. I resolved to stay true to myself and those who were counting on me and push through the discomfort. It’s reassuring to look back and see that everything turned out fine. Now, looking forward, I can have faith that if things become difficult again, I will thrive and be okay.