Laurentians Inspire: Emily Cafarella '21 | St. Lawrence University

Laurentians Inspire: Emily Cafarella '21

A day in the life of a St. Lawrence student looks different these days. That’s especially the case for one Laurentian who is also spending her time saving lives in her hometown. Emily Cafarella ’21 is currently balancing her academic obligations with her role as a first responder and officer with the Massena Rescue Squad. That puts her on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, working with her crew to keep her hometown safe.

“As a result of the pandemic, there are more precautions we’re taking with every call,” Emily says of the changes she’s noticed over the last month. “No matter where the call is, we’re now required to wear a mask, and there are more decontamination procedures once we return to the building.”

For Emily, who calls nearby Norwood, New York, home, responsibilities as an officer have also intensified as the demands on her team grow greater every day.

“It’s required me to step-up more to keep members upbeat and keep communication open, so no one feels left in the dark about constantly-changing protocols,” she adds.

Emily’s innate drive to help others has flourished at St. Lawrence. She’s been serving as a student EMT since her first year, when she was inspired to join after she called St. Lawrence University Emergency Medical Services (SLU EMS) for a friend and had an opportunity to see the student first responders in action. While training to become one herself, she managed a packed class schedule during the week so she could ride along with the Massena Rescue Squad on weekends. 

St. Lawrence empowers students to approach challenges with poise and passion, and to harness their practical knowledge to solve tough problems. Her experience with SLU EMS has taught her to use her senses and listen to her intuition, which has allowed her to be a better first responder with her team in Massena.

“SLU EMS has helped me with on-scene patient assessment and certain skills,” she explains. “You’re always taking manual vitals, and you have to rely on your eyes and ears to tell you what to do next.”

Emily views her ability to give back not only an essential service, but a privilege. She’s deeply invested in the health and safety of her community and confident that the real-world experiences she’s acquired at St. Lawrence can help her make a difference when it matters most.

“I just get to keep doing what I love, and I get to face this for people who can’t,” she says.

These days, Emily, who is a neuroscience major and an art and art history minor, wakes up early to complete her schoolwork before reporting for her shift at 6 p.m. She describes her team as a family and notes how supportive her crew has been during this time, especially when it comes to her academics. And even though she’s spending more time with her friends, family, and crew back home, she’s keeping her campus community close to her heart.

“I have a deep love for both communities,” she says. “I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m trying to help and give back in any way I can.”

Emily doesn’t ask for much in return, but her requests are easy enough for all of us to follow: “Remember to wash your hands, wear your masks, and continue to social distance!”

Do you know an inspiring Laurentian who is helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic? Email those stories to Meg at