2020 Steamboat graduate puts emergency skills to use during COVID-19 pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As 2020 seniors found themselves stuck at home during their last months of high school, some went into a funk, others enjoyed binge watching TV shows, and still others were determined to find a way to honor their fellow seniors by organizing parades, videos and T-shirt drives.
But Steamboat Springs High School senior Callum Becvarik could only think about one thing — what he could do to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I kept seeing they needed help in New York, New Jersey, and I wished I could help, but I didn’t think I had enough experience for what they needed,” Becvarik said.
He soon looked around and found that Colorado and New Mexico, his second home, both had a medical reserve corps where volunteers can help during disasters.
Within days, New Mexico’s Medical Reserve Corps called up Becvarik, who had recently been certified as an EMT in both Colorado and New Mexico. He also served on ski patrols in both states — all while carrying a 4.0 GPA.
Becvarik’s mentors and teachers were not surprised the young man was ready to jump in.
“He was no stranger to emergency situations from an early age,” said Jack Dant, ski patrol director at the Santa Fe Ski Area.
Dant watched Becvarik grow up skiing during his school breaks in New Mexico, where his father lived and served as an emergency medical professional and volunteer for years.
While Becvarik started going to emergency calls with his dad at the age of 2, his first memory of rushing to a scene was as an 8-year-old driving in his dad’s Toyota SUV.
“We’d just had dinner at grandma’s, when all of a sudden his pager goes off,” Becvarik said. “My dad grabbed the dash light and put it on the dash. I vividly remember doing a U-Turn and going super fast — at least in my mind. I see them bring this person out, and they’re doing CPR and another ambulance takes the patient and zooms off, and my dad gets back in his car.”
So it’s no surprise Becvarik was shadowing professional ski patrollers from the age of 12, carrying oxygen tanks, repacking toboggans, doing anything he could until he became certified at 16 to work with ski patrol patients himself. It didn’t hurt that the young man was a competitive big mountain skier with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
One colleague commented on Becvarik’s skill at surveying the mountain and picking the best line.
“I watched … as he effortlessly skied down terrain that would intimidate even the most experienced skier,” said Nicholas Dawson, a paramedic who worked with Becvarik in Santa Fe.
As a high school student, Becvarik took advantage of Colorado Mountain College’s numerous emergency and wilderness courses and certifications.
CMC Professor Jeremy Hockley taught Becvarik and said he stood out even among those much older than him.
“He was top in his EMT class and volunteered for everything, even the stuff most people didn’t want to participate in,” Hockley said. “It doesn’t surprise me Callum is volunteering. It’s part of who he is. He’s a top-notch kid. I’m excited to see where he goes in the future.”
Becvarik is continuing his work with New Mexico COVID-19 patients where Native Americans were especially hard hit on reservations.
“On the reservation some people still don’t have water and electricity, and their lifestyle has multiple generations living together in close quarters,” he said.
So far, Becvarik has worked at five different places during his stint with the Medical Reserve Corps.
After the Steamboat graduate finishes his work in New Mexico, he hopes to put his EMT skills to work in Boston while living with his grandmother.
The 18-year-old will be attending the University of Vermont, known for its health sciences studies and Level 1 trauma center on campus.
“They also have a student-led EMS service, so you can work on an ambulance as a volunteer. That appealed to me,” Becvarik said.
The premed student will be helped with his studies by scholarships worth more than $50,000, including a Trustee Scholarship from the University of Vermont.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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Colorado updated its guidance for masks in schools Friday, suggesting school districts in the state should consider masks for the unvaccinated and, in areas of higher transmission like Routt County, masks for everyone.