By Carolyn Turgeon
In talking with one of the founding members of the student group, The Eyeopener discovered a bit about its roots.
Scott McLeod, a primary care paramedic and volunteer firefighter, was a theatre production student who graduated from Ryerson in 2007. In 2005, he was a second year and a senior student in residence, when his friend Joshua Bezanson pointed out that Ryerson was one of the last schools in Ontario without a student response team.
“We were all friends from various floors in residence,” says McLeod of the five or six students who initially got together, all with different levels of certifications and experience.
Gabriel Lazdins, who was a graphics communications management student at the time, had experience as a volunteer firefighter and medic. Lazdins went on to become director of RyeSERT in 2009 and is now a web application developer in human resources at Ryerson.
“With his background and our motivation we started out the team,” says McLeod. “The team had high goals even if we didn’t [always] accomplish them.” RyeSERT today, which primarily works as an on-call campus service, was what the original group was hoping to achieve.
“That was the initial goal, however [it] was met with a lot of trepidation on campus initially,” says McLeod, decribing a general unease in trusting students with medical care.
Until they acheived their on-call status in September 2009, which has since halted for a period and started up again in March 2011, they worked as on site medical assistance for different events run by the Ryerson Students’ Union, called the Ryerson Students’ Administrative Council (RyeSAC) until 2006. This helped them keep interest in their services while they worked out the logistics of being on-call.
They also ran first-aid classes to earn money and recruit more members into their training program and ran mock disaster situations to raise awareness.
They also helped Toronto Emergency Services at events like Nuit Blanche and the Scotiabank AIDS Walk For Life. The offcampus portion of the service dissolved at one point to focus on their on-call status.
“The original founding members still talk to each other quite a bit,” says McLeod. “If I never met Josh in residence, I wouldn’t be a paramedic today.”