As any Wahoo would understand, free time is slim to none. When the rare opportunity of “down time” from coursework does present itself, many students may choose to throw something on TV or explore the greater Charlottesville area. Others might spend their time more meaningfully by doing things such as: donate their time to others through acts such as: donating blood, picking up trash, or giving food to the homeless. However, one Wahoo in particular stands out amongst the rest: Alianna Kyle.
“I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare but I did not know what specifically I wanted to do…It wasn’t until we did an [emergency response] simulation and these two paramedics walked in. I knew then I wanted to be just like them.”
Devoting her life to serving others, third year nursing student Alianna Kyle takes the concept of service to a whole new level. On the move practically 24/7, when she is not swamped by her nursing coursework, Kyle spends her free time in numerous ways, but all of them involve putting others before herself. In addition to being a UVa student, Kyle volunteers as a firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and an Air Force cadet in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). With so much going on, how does Kyle find the time to do all of this? Behind this question stands a story of courage and resilience.
It was a Friday evening and while many students were getting ready to celebrate another week of coursework, Kyle was at the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department. It was here that she sat down and shared her time with me; elated to express her passion for service. Kyle made it clear that all her life she has wanted to do nothing else but serve others.
“When I was 14 someone told me about local fire departments and how I could volunteer. But it wasn’t until I went to some random hospital camp that I saw nurses and doctors. They looked really cool but they did not gravitate to me.”
After being apart of her first medical summer camp, Kyle finally figured out exactly what she wanted to pursue in the medical field: paramedics. For the next two years this was all Kyle could think about and on her sixteenth birthday she went directly to her local fire department.
“Not much later I found myself on my first ambulance ride and I remember being flabbergasted. I called my dad right away and told him this is what I want to do. At this time I had no interest in firefighting and just wanted to work as an EMT. This stems from the fact that people always told me women do not belong on fire trucks, and frankly I did not believe I belonged on a fire truck either. I was just this skinny girl who couldn’t even do one pushup, so I told myself I just want to do medical stuff and go into nursing one day.”
Kyle would go forth to express that while she realized she wanted to be an EMT at 16, she faced a lot of struggles being female in a firehouse that ultimately affected her willingness to believe in herself to do more. It would not be until joining the nursing program her first year at UVa, that she realized she could indeed be more than just an EMT.
“I stopped volunteering as an EMT as I told myself I was going to try new things. I threw myself into various clubs my first semester and even joined the Air Force ROTC program. While I was doing a lot as a student, being a part of so many clubs, I knew something was missing in my life. It was volunteering and doing my first response and somehow I had caught the firebug.”
Before joining the ROTC program Kyle never believed she could push herself so hard. She realized that deep down she always wanted to be on a fire truck and that she could do a “man’s job”. The military always scared Kyle, but once she jumped into the ROTC program she learned so much about herself. It was thanks to ROTC that she gained the courage and strength to believe in herself and ignore what so many people told her she could never do: be a firefighter.
“It was after that first semester at the university and joining ROTC that I realized I could do more than just one push-up. I never thought that I could go into the military and once I proved to myself that I could; it’s almost as if everything else came together and that is exactly what made me realize I can become a firefighter. So I joined the local volunteer fire department here in Charlottesville. I quickly realized this is where I want to spend the next four years of my college experience. I got my EMT certification in highschool and what’s nice about joining a fire department was that I could now satisfy both fire-fighting and being an EMT still.”
Throughout the remainder of her first year, Kyle would remain dedicated to volunteering at the fire department and even got her fire-fighter certification months later. In the fall of her second year at UVa, she had courageously passed fire academy. Being physically draining and the “hardest thing” she had ever done, there were times she wanted to give in and admit defeat to those who told her she was not good enough to become a firefighter. But through it all, Kyle successfully proved that she could do anything. She realized that accomplishing things that, at first, seemed scary is incredibly rewarding.
Ever since her first year at UVA, Kyle has served as both a volunteer firefighter and EMT at the local Seminole Trail Volunteer fire department. She currently spends a majority of her week and weekends embraced by various emergency calls. Kyle says that learning to balance all that she does took a while, but she has a secret recipe. According to Kyle, in order to fulfill everything that is on a schedule, one must, “Learn to master the art of compartmentalizing, I have learned to switch roles and be quick with it all, I keep a tight leash with myself.” Her whole week is planned and laid out in advance, which helps her keep track of nursing school and her three volunteer roles.
She reiterated that if there is one thing anyone needs to take away from her story it is simply to, “Do something everyday that scares you and never stop.” She expressed gratitudes to those in her life that have lifted and developed her into the person she is today. Her father Morgan Kyle, firehouse Captain Alice Thomson, all the Emma’s in her life, and her ROTC family, have played a pivotal role in making her the service devoted Wahoo she is today.After she graduates from UVa, Kyle wishes to pursue a career with the Air Force as a flight nurse officer. She reiterates the fact that all she wants to do is, “Always be devoting time to serving others. By serving for my country as a nurse, I can serve those who have served me my whole life.” Using the skills she has developed since being a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and ROTC cadet, Kyle believes there is no reason for why she will not be prepared for the world after graduation.