The phone conversation was polite, but painstaking.
For an hour and a half — almost enough time to screen the movie “Backdraft” — Nick Gamellia peppered Dawn Sgro with questions about Lorain County Community College’s Fire Science program. Since he had shadowed his hometown Avon Lake Fire Department in high school, Gamellia had wanted to be a firefighter.
“The way firefighters drop whatever they’re doing at a moment’s notice to help and serve others, I was hooked,” says Gamellia.
So he wanted to get the next step right. He reached out to several colleges, but his queries were either inadequately answered, or went unanswered. Then he found LCCC, where he not only was able to speak to a person, it was someone willing to answer all of his questions — no matter how long it took.
“He had his goals and stood out from the very beginning,” says Sgro, coordinator for the EMS and fire science programs at LCCC. “He wanted to make sure he was getting the most information he could to make a decision.”
Gamellia’s attention to detail has served him well. He is an Avon Lake firefighter, he’s given back to LCCC as an adjunct faculty member and he’s even won an award for his teaching. And he’s fulfilled the mission to serve instilled in him as a high school student more than a decade ago.
A burning desire
As a safety for the Avon Lake High School football team, Gamellia understood the value of people working together toward a common goal.
“If you’re not producing, you’re creating more work for other people,” he says. “You have to focus on your assignment and give your best individual effort.”
So when he shadowed the Avon Lake Fire Department prior to his 2008 high school graduation, the camaraderie was familiar.
“It truly is a brotherhood thing,” he says. “Seeing them work on calls and that rush of adrenaline, it was really thrilling.”
And when the crew resuscitated a diabetic patient suffering a hypoglycemic emergency, Gamellia knew this career was for him.
“I just fell in love,” he says.
He attended Bowling Green State University before transferring to The Ohio State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in 2013.
“If I had just gone to a fire academy and gotten a job right away, I might have regrets,” he says. “It was cool to delve deep into the field of knowledge and live on my own and get experience in a city with a lot of diversity.”
Answering the call
When Gamellia completed his bachelor’s degree, he didn’t know where he would pursue his paramedic and fire science degrees. But that phone call with Sgro provided clear direction.
“She was extremely helpful and answered all of my annoying questions,” he says. “And I was able to bypass a good amount of core content hours because I had my education degree.”
Gamellia completed the paramedic program in 2014 and his fire science degree the following summer.
“I got to take classes with Carl Mack,” who in 2019 was named fire chief in Elyria, he says. “Where else are you going to get training from a guy with that much experience?”
That training paid off. He worked part time for the Eaton Township Fire Department before landing a full-time job in Cleveland Heights in 2016. In 2017, he achieved his dream of serving his hometown fire department when he was sworn in as an Avon Lake firefighter and paramedic.
“To be able to test for Avon Lake, then get this job, was amazing,” he says.
He says LCCC paved the way for his success. When taking civil service tests, candidates are awarded additional points for having a degree in their field. And while Gamellia scored well on the fire science test, he says having completed LCCC’s program put him ahead of other qualified candidates.
“I truly would not have been able to test for Avon Lake and get the job if it wasn’t for my medic and fire science degrees from LCCC,” he says.
In 2017, Sgro approached Gamellia about serving as adjunct faculty, teaching EMT and paramedic lectures and labs at LCCC.
“Being in front of a class was initially nerve-wracking,” he says. “But it’s awesome to see my former students in the field, knowing I helped them get there.
Gamellia has seized every opportunity to share his knowledge, and when he was being considered for the LCCC Foundation Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award, students and instructors wrote letters praising him for his kindness, compassion, dedication and time spent with students.
“I have nothing but good things to say about him,” Sgro says. “We’re lucky he’s in this area and decided to give back to LCCC. His students and patients benefit from him being here, as well.”
Gamellia also feels lucky to have obtained his dream job thanks to his experiences at LCCC.
“To be in this position and go to work and have fun doing what I love, I’m blessed,” he says.