Victoria Mehl only needed a couple of ride-alongs with her local fire department to find her passion.
“While my husband was away at training, I was living with a friend who worked for the fire department,” Mehl said. “He said, just come with me a couple of days, do a couple of ride-alongs, see if you like it.
“I got completely sold on EMS.”
The 24-year-old Mehl, having earned her associate degree in Emergency Medical Science from Fayetteville Tech in May, is now an emergency medical technician with Cape Fear Valley’s Cumberland County EMS.
It’s a sharp departure from the career she thought she’d have.
Growing up in her hometown of Clearwater, Fla., Mehl had aspirations of pursuing a career in international business, an interest cultivated while attending a high school with a specialized course of study.
“I took classes in high school that were centered around culture, commerce and international studies,” Mehl said.
Mehl enrolled in college while still in Florida, but a series of major life events — marrying her husband, Zakkry, and moving to Fort Bragg in 2015 — put a temporary pause on Mehl’s education.
“Things got very busy,” she says. “And I sort of got lost in the shuffle.”
After settling in Fayetteville, Mehl decided it was time to pursue that passion she’d discovered while volunteering at the fire department back in Florida.
“Less than six months after we moved up here, I’d started the EMS program at Fay Tech,” Mehl said.
In the meantime, Mehl has had a daughter — Lucy, now 3 — and took a break from classes while Zakkry deployed. But Mehl returned to FTCC after each break to continue her classes.
“It was perfect because the classes were small,” Mehl said. “I wasn’t sitting in some huge lecture hall with 250 other people and not able to get my voice in. I was always able to ask questions and be heard.
“And my professors always understood and were very patient with me, because I do ask a lot of questions.”
Now, Mehl does a lot of listening herself, interacting with patients out on calls across Cumberland County.
“I’m a people person, and I’ve always been interested in different cultures, and I get to experience so much of that everyday,” Mehl said. “Even if I don’t have high-priority patients, I get to hear about people and their life stories. I love it.”
Mehl is the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree, and her parents, both government employees, encouraged her every step of the way.
“I don’t think they really cared what I studied as long as I went to college,” she said.
And she’s likely not done in the classroom.
“I think I’d like to become a physician assistant,” Mehl said. “I love Emergency and would like to stay in Emergency, just work my way up the ranks.”