Defining Hokies: Cadet Steven Higgs exemplifies university's motto of service
For Cadet Maj. Steven Higgs of Luray, Va., a senior studying psychology in the College of Science, service has always been a part of life.
Both of Higgs’ parents have been emergency medical technicians (EMT) since before he was born. He says he grew up with service being a way of life and not just something that was reserved for special occasions.
It was that way of life that attracted both Higgs and his older brother, Eric, to follow in their parent’s footsteps. “My parents and my brother were members of the rescue squad, and I wanted to be a part of what they were a part of,” Higgs says. He became a junior member of the Luray Volunteer Rescue Squad when he was only 15 years old and became EMT certified at age 16.
Higgs says he knew how much his family members enjoyed the service and work that they did, and when he began running squad calls he says he got the same satisfaction and a rush and excitement as well. But even under high pressure situations, Higgs says he has learned the importance of staying calm. This is something he says that he learned from his dad, whom he ran a lot of calls with when he was first starting out.
Higgs later became a full member of his hometown rescue squad when he turned 18, and the same year became an EMT-Basic and Driver. He was also an attendant in charge, which means he was the one running the calls.
Higgs and his brother are now wearing different uniforms, because both went on to different branches of service. Eric is a professional firefighter for Rockingham County and is certified as an EMT-Enhanced.
Higgs says he decided to pursue a degree at Virginia Tech, and join an organization with a long history and tradition of service, the Corps of Cadets. He was also one of the recipients for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship. Higgs also says he wants to serve his country in the U.S. Army.
Since coming to Virginia Tech, Higgs has been involved in several service projects and organizations. For his spring break during his sophomore year, when most students are planning trips to the beach or spending time with their families, he went on a service trip to Nicaragua. The trip was part of an alternative spring break program through the Nicaraguan Orphan Fund at Virginia Tech.
He said that he and a friend were searching for something different to do, that they wanted to travel, they wanted to experience another culture, and they wanted to hopefully do something that would make a difference. Higgs says that they were definitely able to do all three through this program.
Each student volunteer not only brings with them a suitcase full of clothes to donate, but they also spend their time with the children really engaging and interacting with them. “Traveling to Florida or Cancun would be traveling but it doesn’t do anything life changing for yourself or anyone else; going to Nicaragua did,” Higgs adds.
Back in Blacksburg, last fall semester of 2011 he was the coordinator of his Delta Company’s service project. Their goal was to raise money for the scholarships given out to incoming freshmen joining the Corps of Cadets. Working with Virginia Tech’s Student Calling Center, they were able to raise over $48,000 in scholarship money.
Last semester he was also platoon leader in the Army ROTC , where he was responsible for training, mentoring, and educating 65 cadets. And then this spring semester of 2012 he became a part of the regimental staff, where he is in charge of public affairs for the Corps of Cadets.
Although Higgs is pursuing a career with the Army, he still incorporates his medical-service background into his involvement at Virginia Tech. This spring semester he is also an Army Battalion medical officer, responsible for the health and well-being of 350 cadets.
Higgs has also been a professional EMT for the past two years in Page County as a Fire-EMS. It has been his summer job since 2010. Although he has been an EMT since he was 16, he says he still remembers the lessons that his father taught him when he was starting out.
Higgs tells the story of a time that he ran a call and he actually got there way before the ambulance did, and he just happened to be in the area. A woman had fallen and broken her leg, both she and her husband were in a panic. But Higgs says that he just talked to her calmly, and did what he could with the supplies he had on hand until the squad got there.
Later at the hospital, the woman said she knew everything was going to be okay when she saw how calm Higgs was. “That’s the kind of small gratification that I usually get from running calls. There have been a lot of much more serious calls I’ve ran, but it’s weird that simple things like that are the ones that stick out,” Higgs says.
After Higgs graduates this May and receives his commission in the U.S. Army, he says he plans on taking the class necessary to take EMT-Enhanced test this summer. In October, he will begin the Officer Training Course for the U.S. Army. He will then join the Quartermaster Corps, which is in charge of logistics and supplying the forces.
After Higgs is done with his service to the Army, he says that he would consider going back to being a medic, particularly a medical evacuation helicopter medic. Higgs says that service to him is “going out of your way, and with a little bit of selflessness, being able to give back to your community.”
Higgs served abroad, in his hometown, his school, and now his country. He seemed to embody Virginia Tech’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) before even coming to this school, showing that this is a place that not only encourages service, but also attracts those that wish to serve. Just as Higgs served before coming to Virginia Tech, he will continue with that tradition and way of life after he graduates.
Written by Shelby Ward of Bluefield, Va., who is a senior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.